Wonga urges consumers to be on high alert for scammers trying to profit from the fear and confusion surrounding the current crisis, with a TransUnion report showing that about 25% of South Africans have already been targeted by scams relating to COVID-19.
While scams can happen any time, many fraudsters are now preying on people’s fear about contracting COVID-19 and the financial uncertainty due to job and income loss caused by the virus, among others. Cybercriminals try to gain access to individuals’ security information via “spoofed” emails offering products such as masks or fake offerings of vaccines. Another related scam involves scammers visiting people’s homes to recall banknotes and coins they say are contaminated with COVID-19.
Phishing, smishing, vishing and social media phishing involves the use of fake emails or SMSes to convince people to hand over their personal information. The customer believes they are handing over their details to a reputable organisation.
“Scammers go to great lengths to appear credible and trustworthy,” warns James Williams, Head of Marketing at Wonga. “If someone contacts you unexpectedly – whether it’s over the phone, by email, SMS, WhatsApp, on a website, in person or on social media – and claims to be a company representative, sales officer, or government official, it is important to always be cautious. Even if a communication seems to come from a legitimate source, it’s best to verify it by contacting the organisation directly, using the details listed on their official website.”
Williams cautions people not to click on any links in unsolicited communications and to never provide any personal information such as bank account details, login credentials, identity documentation or contact details to people or websites that have not been verified. It is advisable that personal information is kept safe by limiting how much it is shared and it is important to be vigilant with what is shared on social media too.
“The more common scams are phishing and social media attacks,” explains Williams. “Fraudsters use these methods of deceitfully obtaining personal information by calling, sending emails, instant messages, or SMSs that look like they come from trusted sources. They pressure you into making a poor decisions and before you know it, your money has been stolen from you.”
In addition, people should avoid downloading attachments or clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages – even if they appear to come from a legitimate source.
Williams shares his tips on protecting against scams that can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress.
- Verify emails, messages, calls, SMSs, and solicitations: If you receive an unrequested solicitation inviting you to apply for a high-value, low-interest loan or otherwise transfer money, check for obscure URLs in the relevant message that appear to go to a reputable site. Hover your mouse over any suspicious links to view the address of the link; avoid emails or messages that do not contain signature or contact information; be aware of a ‘too good to be true offer’; check for style inconsistencies that may have a different style or colours than authentic notifications; look for spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors; and beware of attention-grabbing titles for example, “You won’t believe this video!”
- Check the terms and services offered: if the email is from an organisation you know, check with them directly before acting on the e-mail or message.
- Ensure your browser is secure: Configure your privacy and security settings; set up cookie warnings so users are alerted before navigating to unknown sites; do not save passwords; select plug-ins carefully; update browsers regularly and install and update endpoint security.
- Do not pay upfront for trial services or loan applications.
For those that feel that may have fallen victim to a scam, Wonga’s helpful guide can assist in determining next steps.
“Wonga, or any other regulated lender, will never ask you to pay any fees upfront in order to get a loan. As a responsible business, we wish to proactively alert our customers that they need to be aware and take extra precautions when it comes to making financial transactions.” says Williams.
Wonga Online (Pty) Ltd is a financial services provider with a vision to pioneer the delivery of simple, fair financial products and to put customers at the centre of everything it does.