The major bank scam targeting South Africans right now – and why you often can’t get your money back

The Ombudsman for Banking Services (OBS) says it continues to receive complaints on a daily basis from consumers who were deceived into providing confidential banking information to fraudsters.

“Just a couple of years ago, the most common scam was the phishing emails, said banking ombudsman Reana Steyn.

“In just these past few months, the OBS recorded more than 640 new fraud complaints that were received despite the daily warnings about these scams.”

Steyn explained how the scam works:

  • A bank customer will receive a phone call from someone who says they are from the customer’s bank.
  • The customer is informed that funds have been fraudulently taken from their account or that they (the bank representative) is helping the customer to claim from a rewards program that is offered by the bank. For this to take place, the customer needs to confirm their details so that the funds can be credited to their account.
  • Alternatively, customers are told that they need to act quickly and urgently, as fraudsters “are about to take funds out of their account, but this can be stopped, if they act quickly and co-operate”.
  • The fraudster already has the customer’s phone number (he/she is calling the customer) and may have a host of other personal information at his/her fingertips. This includes addresses, ID numbers, other contact details, email addresses, employment details, or NB even a customer’s bank card number.
  • The customer is asked to update or verify their details, possibly on their cell phone.
  • The customer is then requested to provide everything required to access their bank account, such as card details, the cards pin number, transaction OTPs, and mobile or internet banking passwords. The fraudster says that this is necessary for them to assist the customer, to redeem the rewards, to do a transaction, stop a fraudulent payment, or recover the stolen money.
  • Once the customer has provided the requested details, their accounts are emptied.

While all South Africans are being targeted, Steyn said that the devastation caused by these scams to elderly citizens and pensioners is particularly heart-breaking.

She added that in many of these cases, it is not possible to recover any of the funds which have disappeared.

“The result of this is that an already vulnerable group of people are left without any recourse.

“This often leads to destitution. While this fraud may be crippling to a person who is working, at least they have an opportunity to rebuild their savings.

“We have had cases where an elderly person’s entire pension is stolen due to the fraud and there is no way, or time, for an 80-year-old pensioner to make up the loss,” said Steyn.

Unless the money is stolen at the bank or lost through the fault of an employee or a technological glitch at the bank, it is ultimately up to consumers to do all they can to protect themselves by staying informed about banking scams, she said.

“The OBS again urges consumers to always be very critical about the person at the other end of the line asking for personal details to be shared.

“If in doubt, go to or call your nearest branch and speak to a consultant who will clarify the request for you if it is legitimate.”

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The major bank scam targeting South Africans right now – and why you often can’t get your money back