Tips from SABRIC on how to protect yourself from digital banking crime

I think one of the best things that banks have done to make our lives easier is giving us digital banking. No more queuing up to do simple things like paying bills or transferring funds. I can't remember the last time I needed to use a branch for doing bank. You can do your digital banking at any time, from anywhere.

Yet this convenience can come with some risks. 

According to South African Banking Risk Information Centre's inaugural digital banking crime statistics,  in 2017, 13 438 incidents across banking apps, online banking and mobile banking cost the industry more than R250 000 000 in gross losses. While incidents from January to August 2018, already show a 64% increase, the increase in gross losses is just 7% when compared to the same period in 2017. When comparing January to August 2017 to the same period in 2018, mobile banking incidents showed an increase of more than 100%, with gross losses of R23 593 631, while online banking incidents showed an increase of 44% with gross losses of R89 368 722. For the same period, banking app incidents increased by 20%, with gross losses of R70 156 364. SIM swops saw 4040 incidents from January to August 2017, and 8254 incidents from January to August 2018, an increase of 104%.

Clearly digital banking security is a huge challenge for financial institutions. Banks must worry about potential breaches of their data and our data on a regular basis. However, Financial institutions are only as safe as their weakest link, and if those surrounding them with access to some of the banks’ data are not protecting themselves correctly, then they become the weak point, and that is a big risk.

While banks have extensive security systems in place and work around the clock to protect your money, there are simple things you can do to keep you and your money cyber safe. SABRIC lists the following tips to protect yourself online:

Phishing, Vishing & SMishing
  • Do not click on links or icons in unsolicited emails.
  • Never reply to these emails. Delete them immediately.
  • Do not believe the content of unsolicited emails blindly. If you are concerned about what is being alleged in the email, use your own contact details to contact the sender and confirm.
  • Always type in the URL (uniform resource locator) or domain name for your bank in the address bar of your internet browser if you need to access your bank’s website.
  • Check that you are on your banks genuine website before inputting any personal information.
  • Make sure that you are not on a spoof site by clicking on the security icon on your browser tool bar to see that the URL begins with https rather than http.
  • Check for a closed green padlock next to the URL of the website. A green padlock shows that your connection with the website is secured and encrypted. 
  • If you think that you might have been compromised, contact your bank immediately.
  • Create complicated passwords that are not easy to decipher and change them often.
  • Banks will never ask you to confirm your confidential information over the phone.
  • If you receive a phone call requesting confidential or personal information, do not respond and end the call.
  • If you receive an OTP on your phone without having transacted yourself, it was likely prompted by a fraudster using your personal information. Do not provide the OTP telephonically to anybody. Contact your bank immediately to alert them to the possibility that your information may have been compromised.
  • If you lose mobile connectivity under circumstances where you are usually connected, check whether you may have been the victim of a SIM swop.
RELATED POST: Simple ways to protect your business from cyber attacks

SIM Swops
  • If reception on your cell phone is lost, immediately check what the problem could be, as you could have been a victim of an illegal SIM swop on your number. If confirmed, notify your bank immediately.
  • Inform your Bank should your cell phone number changes so that your cell phone notification contact number is updated on its systems.
  • Register for your Bank’s cell phone notification service and receive electronic messages relating to activities or transactions on your accounts as and when they occur.
  • Regularly verify whether the details received from cell phone notifications are correct and according to the recent activity on your account. Should any detail appear suspicious immediately contact your Bank and report all log-on notification that are unknown to you.
  • Memorise your PIN and passwords, never write them down or share them, not even with a bank official.
  • Make sure your PIN and passwords cannot be seen when you enter them.
  • If you think your PIN and/or password has been compromised, change it immediately either online or at your nearest branch.
  • Choose an unusual PIN and password that are hard to guess and change them often.
Change of Bank Details Scam
  • Maintain a good relationship with existing suppliers and know your contacts whom you should be able to liaise with.
  • Ensure that you confirm any change of banking details with someone you usually deal with at the organisation before making any changes to beneficiary accounts. When calling the organisation to confirm the changes to banking details, use a number from the telephone directory and not the number on the letterhead or email as you will most likely be calling the fraudster.
  • If talking to this ‘supplier’ on the telephone beforehand, they may ask about when you last sent payments to them, looking to see if you are still an active client. Again, ask to speak to contacts that you recognise and if necessary ask your contact to call you back.
  • Question whether well-known companies would change their banking details without notifying people through more formal channels.
  • Beware of supposed confirmatory emails from almost identical email addresses, such as .com instead of, or addresses that differ from the genuine one by perhaps one letter that can be easily missed.
  • Instruct staff responsible for paying invoices to scrutinise invoices for irregularities and escalating suspicions to a known contact.
  • It is essential to make sure that you are certain of the identity of the person your business is dealing with at all times. Consider setting up designated ‘Single Points of Contact’ with companies to which you make regular payments.
  • Ensure that your company’s private information is not disclosed to third parties who are not entitled to receive it, or third parties whose identities cannot be rightfully verified.
  • Rather shred your business and suppliers’ invoices or any communication material that may contain letterheads, than to discard in rubbish bins.
  • Consider reviewing previous requests to change account details to confirm whether they were genuine or not.
  • To avoid your customers acting on an instruction allegedly from you, alert them to this type of fraud.
Email Hacking
  • Make sure your PC has the most up-to-date OS updates and antivirus/malware software.
  • Depending on the extent to which your account was abused, you may have to contact all email recipients who were spammed by your hacked mailbox to advise them that these communications were not legitimate.
  • Set up several email addresses. Use your original email address for personal or business communication as you’d normally do and use an alternative email address to communicate with your service provider, since many now ask for a different address for added protection. Then, use yet another email address for registering for websites, newsletters, online shopping and other services. In this way, the risk of a possible compromise is spread.
  • Use different and strong passwords for each account - one that is at least six characters long, and is a combination of letters, numbers and capitals/lowercase.
  • On a secure PC, log into your email and then check if any of the settings have been changed. This could indicate that your email account has been hacked, so ensure that if any of the settings have been altered, that you delete these immediately.
  • Once you have changed the settings, create a new password, and add your secondary email account as your alternative address.
  • Never list your main email address publicly anywhere online - in forums, in online advertisements, on blogs, social media or any place where it can be harvested by spammers. Use a separate email address for the internet which is not linked to your personal or business email account.
  • Don’t use public computers to check email; there’s virtually no way to know if they have been accidentally infected with malware or have had keylogging spyware installed intentionally.
And now with the holidays around the corner, and people being in the holiday mood, they will unfortunately also be will be lax with their personal details.  The important thing to remember about digital bank crimes is that it is almost impossible for a hacker to plunder your account if they don’t have any of your details. They need, at the very least, the full details on your bank card. So make sure you protect yourself. 

Do you have any other tips on how to protect yourself from digital banking crime?

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