There probably isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t received one of those classic phishing e-mails, where you’re encouraged to click a link and give up your personal information. Phishing is a scam that has been around forever and we’ve become well-trained at spotting fake mails.
Maybe the criminals have realised that the phishing trend is waning, because recently a new type of scam is becoming more common: the payment scam. This is where you end up paying into the wrong bank account, or you do a handover of goods thinking that a payment has been made.
Here’s how to recognise these scams so that you don’t become a victim.
The ‘change of banking details’ scam
With this type of scam, the fraudster gets wind that you’re about to do an EFT for a large amount of money, then they convince you that the banking details for the payment have changed and you need to use ‘new’ account details. (Fraudsters typically go for large payments, but nothing is stopping them from targeting smaller ones.) How do they know that you’re about to make a big payment? There are many ways, including hacking your e-mail or having an accomplice on the other side of the transaction. There’s a strong password lesson in here, but let’s save that for another Slice!
Let’s say you’re about to put down a deposit on a property and the conveyancing attorney sends you a WhatsApp message saying that the bank details initially sent over e-mail are incorrect. She’s just ‘conveniently’ sending you the new details in a direct message…
At this point, you should get very suspicious. To protect yourself, check that the bank account details are valid. Call the recipient, either using the details from your first correspondence or by searching for their number online, and confirm. Ignore the WhatsApp conversation. To be doubly sure, make a smaller payment of R100, then call again and check that the money has reflected before making the balance of the payment. Make sure you are calling the legitimate recipient!
The ‘proof of payment’ scam
The second scam is when you receive proof of payment for an amount that you were expecting, but this ‘proof’ is actually fake. This usually happens when you’re selling something relatively expensive, like a laptop, cellphone or even your car. You meet someone, they offer to buy the item, they send you proof of payment, they collect the item and you never see a cent in your bank account…
It’s often difficult to tell if a payment confirmation is fake or not. Sometimes you can call your bank and ask them to verify it, but the best way is to tell the buyer to wait until the money has cleared in your bank account. Even better: wait until the money has cleared, then move it into another account, like a savings account, to prevent a quick reversal of the transaction, which can happen in certain circumstances.
Don’t trust promises of a ‘PayPal’ transaction or similar, either. These third-party gateways might be legitimate in an online shopping context where you’re buying from a store, but they can often be faked in a private transaction.
As much as financial freedom is about growing your money, it’s also about protecting yourself from fraudsters, who are always inventing new ways to swindle unsuspecting victims. Be meticulous with your payments because a loss to a scam is often irreversible.