Digital bank fraud increased in 2020, according to Sabric. Picture: 123RF/DOLGACHOV
Digital bank fraud increased in 2020, according to Sabric. Picture: 123RF/DOLGACHOV

With more South Africans shopping and transacting online during the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in digital banking fraud.

This is according to the SA Banking Risk Information Centre’s (Sabric) annual crime statistics for 2020, released on Wednesday.

Sabric said the pandemic, coupled with the implementation of Disaster Management Act regulations, “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.”

Sabric found while some types of crime decreased, overall there was an increase in banking crime incidents.

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

Digital banking fraud increased 33% and debit card fraud rose 22%, but credit card fraud decreased 7%.

Contact crime was affected by the restriction of movement and visible policing, resulting in a decrease in incidents.

Associated robberies saw a decline of 24% in 2020 compared with 2019, with decreases evident in the Free State, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

While ATM attacks decreased 9% overall, ATM explosive incidents increased 20%.

Cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies decreased significantly due to the level 5 lockdown in April 2020 and May 2020, but once restrictions were lifted, those increased again 22% as criminals were able to move with fewer restrictions and fear of roadblocks and searches.

Robberies and burglaries increased 42% and 12%, respectively.

Sabric CEO Nischal Mewalall said: “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.”

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

He cautioned bank customers to never click on links in unsolicited emails, “as these links are used in phishing emails to drive people to bogus websites which 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 continue to see 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.”

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