In the age of instant communication, we have the virtual world at our fingertips. Everything from banking, to access to personal information, is all available online at the click of a button. While this makes life easier for those of us who are even slightly tech-savvy, online access to our entire lives can make us vulnerable to cyber criminals.

Fake emails professing to be from your bank or even phone calls from an official-sounding individual claiming to be from SARS could end up leaving you with a hacked bank account.

In this article we discuss the various ways opportunistic criminals could target you, and how to avoid becoming a victim.

What is Phishing

Phishing is when a cybercriminal attempts to extract personal information from you via a fake email or website. You may receive what looks like an email from your bank stating that you need to update your password, and while this may seem legitimate at first glance, it most certainly is not. If you click on the link or attachment, it may take you through to a very official looking website prompting you to input your login credentials. If you do so, then you will certainly be handing over your personal details to the would-be criminal and leave yourself vulnerable to having your bank account drained.

Another common trick these cybercriminals use is claiming that your email address has won a large sum of money. If you respond they will then ask for all your personal information before you can claim your ‘prize’. They often go as far as asking you to pay them a small fee for them to ‘release your winnings’.

How to avoid being a victim of Phishing

  • Never click on any links in an email asking you to update a password or a profile, unless you have requested a password reset yourself.
  • Always take note of the sender’s email address. Often it comes from an unofficial email address. If in doubt, always ask your IT team how to proceed.
  • Never open any attachments from unsolicited email addresses. Attachments with strange prefixes such as .html will undoubtedly take you to a fake website in an attempt to extract your personal information.

Never reply to people offering you large sums of money for any reason. As the adage goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

What is Vishing

Vishing is when a fraudster calls on your cellphone, often claiming to be from a government organization. They may claim that you will be arrested immediately if you do not pay them a large sum of money. Of course, there is a real chance that you do get a phone call from SARS if you are not up to date with your taxes, but they will never threaten you on the phone in an attempt to extort money from you. It is always a good idea to install a call monitoring app, such as Truecaller on your phone, which will usually alert you when the number calling is a potential scammer.

How to avoid being a victim of Vishing

  • Never give out your personal information on the phone such as ID numbers, bank details or password or your address.
  • Install Truecaller on your phone and pay attention to the notifications.
  • Block any number that you suspect of belonging to a fraudster.

What is Smishing?

Smishing is the same concept as phishing, however it is done via a SMS or WhatsApp message from a number you do not recognize. Often the fraudster will claim that your number has won a large sum of money, or that they have a business opportunity for you. Unless you have actually entered a competition, then the message is clearly a scam. They may also send you a message with a link to a fake website, just as they do with phishing. Do not click on any links and do not fill in any details if you do happen to click on the link.

How to avoid becoming a victim of smishing

  • Do not reply to any unsolicited SMSs
  • Install Truecaller and block any number that send you unsolicited, fake messages
  • Never give out any personal information via SMS or WhatsApp
  • Do not click on any links sent via SMS

If you keep the above tips in mind and remain vigilant when it comes to your online behaviour, you will certainly save yourself from becoming a victim of online fraud.