Digital banking fraud increased by 33% last year, a report by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) has found. Pictures: Tiro Ramatlhatse
Digital banking fraud increased by 33% last year, a report by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) has found. Pictures: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Increased digital banking fraud during lockdown

By Velani Ludidi Time of article published Sep 29, 2021

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Cape Town – Digital banking fraud increased by 33% last year, a report by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) has found.

SABRIC releases crime statistics on behalf of the banking industry. Debit card fraud rose by 22%, while on a positive note, credit card fraud decreased by 7%.

As customers turned to online shopping and settling payments on apps, criminals enhanced their efforts to phish customers to steal their personal data and defraud them on digital and online platforms.

SABRIC chief executive Nischal Mewalall stated: “Your personal data, when combined with technology has become the new key to the safe that holds your money in a bank, so you must safeguard your data to prevent criminals getting access to your safe.”

The annual crime stats for 2020 by SABRIC found that the implementation of regulations of the Disaster Management Act had a notable influence on financial crime trends in 2020. It triggered changes in human behaviour, human movement and policing, creating new opportunities for criminals which significantly impacted the number of crime incidents.

While some crime types decreased, others increased, as criminals exploited Covid-19 for their own gain. Overall, SABRIC said it has seen an increase in banking crime incidents.

Contact crime was impacted by the restriction of movement and visible policing, resulting in a decrease in incidents. Associated robberies saw a decrease of 24% in 2020 when compared to 2019 with decreases evident in the Free State, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

While ATM attacks decreased by 9% overall, ATM explosive incidents increased by 20%. Cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies decreased significantly due to the Level 5 lockdown in April and May of 2020, but once restrictions were lifted, these increased again by 22% as criminals were able to move with fewer restrictions and fear of roadblocks and searches. Robberies and burglaries also increased by 42% and 12% respectively.

2020 saw Gauteng most affected by credit card fraud (58.3%), followed by the Western Cape (23.8%) and KwaZulu-Natal (6%).

The top three provinces affected by debit card fraud during 2020 were Gauteng (45%), the Western Cape (16%) and KwaZulu-Natal (11.9%)

Mewalall warned that looking ahead, cybercrime and data breaches will represent a significant threat to customers and banks, because even the best security and technology can be compromised when criminals source and use legitimate data illegally, to carry out a crime.

Mewalall also warns bank customers to never click on links in unsolicited emails, as these links are used in phishing emails to drive people to “spoofed” websites that look like legitimate online retailers, complete with enticing images and convincing taglines.

“Criminals use these bogus websites to harvest bank card details to make online purchases using your account. We are still seeing lots of scams advertising seemingly incredible deals for personal protective equipment, sanitiser and fake vaccines that exploit people’s concern for their health and safety,” adds Mewalall.

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