South African shoppers hunting for the best deals online should be aware of scammers looking to defraud them this Black Friday.
While such scammers are already rife on the Internet under normal circumstances, the increased online shopping activity around the annual shopping promotion provides more potential victims.
In addition to taking money for products they never deliver, fraudsters use this opportunity to phish bank card and account details.
Absa’s chief fraud strategist, Ulrich Janse van Rensburg, recently spoke to MyBroadband about some measures shoppers could take to prevent falling victim to online fraud.
Janse van Rensburg said the main way to identify a fake offer is to consider if it is realistic.
The challenge is that Black Friday often comes with some of the biggest discounts of the year, which makes it easier for customers to mistake a scam for a great deal.
Although finding products marked off around 50% of their regular price is possible, such deals are the exception rather than the rule.
It is also important to consider the offer’s origin.
Janse van Rensburg said most fraudsters used emails or social media to promote their scams or phish for customer details.
Therefore, consumers should be wary of any unsolicited offers on these channels.
Scam and vulnerability scanning tool
For those considering buying items from shops they have never used before, Janse van Rensburg recommended using the South African Fraud Prevention Service’s yima.org.za website.
These tools scan websites for scams and vulnerabilities using a collection of risks and feedback from users who have interacted with the website to create a Trust Score.
“The quick check assesses the trustworthiness of a domain using a specialised algorithm which analyses any online subdomain for both positive and negative factors associated to it,” SAFPS explains.
The service also offers a plugin to identify possible scam shops as you browse the Internet and a large collection of scam reports.
Janse van Rensburg also said bad reviews can help identify a scam website or fraudulent scheme.
“If there are bad reviews or no reviews, in other words — pointing to a new merchant or platform — then it’s potentially also something that one needs to look out for.
Lastly, the method of payment — although not a surefire indication of a scam — could also be a red flag.
Legitimate retailers are more likely to offer various payment methods — including card payments supported by well-known services like PayFast, PayGate, and Yoco.
Many scammers prefer to only offer electronic fund transfer (EFT) payments.
This allows them to withdraw the money before a bank can reverse a transaction when a payment is flagged as fraud.
Fraud detection can help — but it’s not infallible
Absa and South Africa’s other major banks have advanced fraud detection systems.
Among their capabilities, they can warn banks about suspicious transactions on customers’ accounts before they clear.
“Before a customer makes this purchase, in a lot of instances, we will decline the initial transaction,” Janse van Rensburg said.
Absa then makes contact with the customer through self-service channels or a phone call to their number.
However, Janse van Rensburg said it was difficult for banks to assess every website consumers access because they don’t have access to that information.
Additionally, if the customer confirms they are making the transaction and would like to proceed, there is little the bank can do.
After being scammed, Janse van Rensburg said one problem was that victims often felt ashamed to come forward and admit they had been defrauded.
He explained informing the bank as early as possible was essential so that their card or account details could not be exploited beyond the initial fraud incident.