Beware of the “Money Bomb” scam in South Africa

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) has warned citizens to exercise increased caution this holiday season due to the prevalence of scams and crime.

ATM fraud, phishing, and various social engineering attacks remain a real danger to South Africans, especially when users are transacting over digital platforms.

The organisation recently published its Digital Banking Crime Statistics, detailing the worrying number of South Africans affected by banking fraud and other cybercrime activities.

One of the most effective ways to defraud or steal from South Africans is through social engineering attacks, whether in person or online.

“Criminals are masters at social engineering and know just how to exploit human vulnerabilities to commit crimes, particularly over the festive season where they tend to let their guard down,” said SABRIC CEO Kalyani Pillay.

The “Money Bomb” scam

Pillay noted that robberies where criminals follow a victim after a withdrawal at an ATM remain common, and South Africans also continue to fall victim to fraud by allowing criminals to interfere during an ATM transaction.

She added that a popular scam known as the “Money Bomb” is becoming increasingly prevalent, preying on the naivety of South Africans at ATMs across the country.

This scam commonly takes place just after a client has transacted at an ATM, and leverages social engineering to lure them into a position where they can be robbed.

The “Money Bomb” begins by a criminal dropping a roll of paper covered in bank notes, giving the appearance of a full roll of legitimate money, near the victim after they have transacted at an ATM.

The criminal then approaches the victim, points out the wad of cash, and suggests going to a remote location to share the “money”.

Once both the criminal and victim have reached the remote location, the victim is robbed of the money they just withdrew at the ATM.

Pillay noted that these robberies are often violent, and the danger is increased due to the isolation of the location.

Hacking and impersonation

South Africans are also falling prey to social engineering attacks which occur online.

“Digital platforms have also created social engineering opportunities for criminals to manipulate their victims into divulging their personal or confidential information,” SABRIC said.

These people are often compromised by phishing, inadvertently providing their legitimate banking credentials or personal information to criminals.

SABRIC urged consumers not to click on links or icons in unsolicited emails or SMSs.

Another increasingly-prevalent attack is committed via the hacking of social media profiles.

Firstly, a victim’s social media account is hijacked by hacking their credentials or creating a duplicate account using stolen personal information.

Criminals then pose as the victim, fabricating a tragic story on the social media platform and sending messages to contacts requesting money.

In many cases, the victims transfer money to the criminal.

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Beware of the “Money Bomb” scam in South Africa