Beware of the latest phishing scams

This time of the year usually sees an upsurge in internet banking fraud attempts that are carried out through the use of phishing or scam emails, Absa said in a statement today.

“Absa would like to caution its customers, and all bank account holders in general, against falling victim to these relatively easy to avoid scams – easy to avoid if one pays attention to the advice and guidance offered by the bank, but financially devastating if ignored,” says Absa digital channels’ managing executive, Christo Vrey.

“Ultimately, the objective of phishing scams is to fraudulently intercept and obtain account-holders’ internet banking login details in order to steal funds from their bank accounts,” Vrey explained.

The latest and increasingly sophisticated phishing techniques are presented in a way that make them look really authentic. “At times, these emails fraudulently duplicate the bank’s logos and use content snippets from the financial institution’s official website. All of this is geared towards deceiving unsuspecting victims into divulging their logon, security and other banking details that could be used to compromise their bank accounts.

“In addition, most of these phishing scams impress upon the recipient a sense of urgency that suggests immediate risk exposure to bank accounts if the recipient (that is, the potential victim) fails to respond accordingly. Such pressure tactics coerce customers into providing the requested information.

“In recent times, scammers have become highly sophisticated and incorporate phrasing and wording within their phishing emails that the bank’s customers would readily identify and be familiar with from previous authentic bank advisories and communiqués. Mostly, these phishing emails employ emotive psychological tactics which may include shocking, luring, scaring and threatening customers to fall victim to their fraudulent ploys.

“Under no circumstances should customers click on links provided in these emails because these will take customers to a hoax scam site or pop-up window that resembles the bank’s official website.

“One way of avoiding this is for customers to ‘manually’ type their bank’s official website address into the browser address bar, rather than following links embedded into phishing emails,” advises Vrey.

The phishing con artists also use URL’s (web addresses) that resemble the name of the bank but these are slightly altered by adding, omitting or transposing letters so that the difference is subtle and not immediately obvious to the unsuspecting user. Clicking on these links will take customers to the fraudulent website instead of the bank’s official website.

“Customers are advised to delete such emails immediately,” says Vrey.

Vrey also emphasised that most banks will never send out random or unsolicited emails requesting confidential information such as passwords, PIN numbers, access codes, credit card and account numbers.

“Also, we will never ask customers to validate or restore account access through emails or pop-up windows,” states Vrey.

He advised that the following checklist be used as a protection against phishing attempts:

  1. Begin your Internet Banking session by manually typing the web address into your browser.
  2. Keep your access information secure – this includes all account numbers, user numbers as well as all PIN numbers and passwords.
  3. Ensure that you see an icon resembling a lock, either at the top of the Internet browser window or at the bottom (depending on your browser).
  4. Install and regularly update the latest anti-virus software.
  5. Refrain from banking at public terminals like Internet Cafes as you can never be fully aware of what programmes are installed on these public PC’s.
  6. Only provide credit card details to reputable companies – ensure that you look for the lock and key icon and security certificates when shopping online.
  7. Change your PIN number and Password regularly and delete all suspicious emails soliciting personal and security information.

A number of South African banks offer free anti-virus or online security software, including Absa and FNB.

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Beware of the latest phishing scams