File picture: Elise Amendola

“The risks involved with carrying large amounts of cash are high. Anyone carrying cash is seen as an easy target. We’ve heard of incidence where domestic staff for example have been accosted and robbed just after being paid in cash or drawing cash from an ATM,” says Malcolm Stephens, Fidelity Security Group Executive New Business Development. In some of these cases, the individual’s entire month’s salary was stolen. “Besides the cash being stolen, the safety of the staff member is also at risk. It’s just not worth it.”

With the festive season approaching, many employees will be receiving bonuses and Stephens urges employers not to pay their staff in cash. “There are numerous options in terms of bank accounts, retail store cash transfers and the likes. Look for alternatives to cash payouts wherever possible.”

Drawing large cash lump sums from ATMs and the likes is also definitely not recommended. “Criminals watch ATMs and target individuals drawing large amounts. They then follow them and wait for an opportunity to make their move. This can be in an isolated area or even in a crowded space. If they want the cash they will take it,” he says.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), recently issued some safety warnings about using an ATM itself advising people to avoid ATMs that are dimly lit or surrounded by loiterers. They encourage all people to choose familiar and well-lit ATMs where you are visible and safe. They suggest you have your card ready in your hand before you approach the ATM to avoid opening your purse, bag or wallet while in the queue and stress how important it is to be cautious of strangers offering to help as they could be trying to distract you in order to get your card or PIN.

Fidelity Security Group agree saying it is so important to always be alert to your surroundings and to remember that fraudsters are often well dressed, well-spoken and respectable looking individuals.

Stokvel payouts are also an area of concern. “Annually members of a stokvel receive a lump sum payout, depending on the stokvel of course. Criminals are aware of this, whether this is through inside information or not, and will target the recipient shortly after the meeting making off with the cash,” says Stephens.  SABRIC adds that stokvel groupings should refrain from making cash deposits of club members’ contributions on high-risk days (e.g. Monday after month end) and always ensure persons depositing club cash contributions or making withdrawals are accompanied by another club member.

It is better for a stokvel savings club or burial society to arrange for members to deposit cash directly into the club’s account instead of collecting cash contributions and if at all possible to arrange for the club’s pay out to be electronically transferred into each club member’s personal account or accounts of their choice.

“If you have to carry cash try to be as discreet as possible and always take a second person with you. Go straight to a bank and deposit the money after receiving it,” says Stephens.

“Let’s all work towards making this an incident-free festive season,” he concludes.

PERSONAL FINANCE