The case where a South African had R30,000 taken out of his bank account after he closed it

The latest annual Ombudsman for Banking Services in South Africa report (OBS) details two cases highlighting the need for consumers in South Africa to be vigilant when conducting financial transactions online.

The OBS resolves personal and small business banking complaints, about banking products and services. The group said it recovered around R19.5 million for consumers in 2021.

It said that as fraud continues in the sector, criminal activity has moved online, with cyber fraudsters responsible for the most complaints

Top complaints included internet banking, current accounts and credit cards, which are representative of the fact that fraudsters are targeting individuals through phishing emails and links, and phishing calls pretending to be from the bank staff, said the ombudsman.

“ATM complaints have dropped, and this may be because more consumers purchase goods online. Unfortunately, the criminals will follow the same trend to target their victims and we have seen new scams evolve.”

The report highlighted two recent matters investigated by the ombudsman where two private banking customers fell victim to financial fraud.

Take note when you reply to an email – it may not be read

In the first case, a complainant who had a credit card account with a bank paid R30,000 towards the account and received a notification of payment from the bank’s information email address.

“The following day he replied to the payment notification email instructing the bank to close the credit card account. The account was not closed and nine days later he fell victim to a phishing scam. Transactions totalling R30,428.15 were processed from the account.”

The bank further argued that their info email address which the complainant used to send an instruction to close the account is not monitored and an automated response was sent to the complainant advising him accordingly. The ombud said that the bank could not provide evidence that an automated message was sent to the complainant.

“There was no evidence that the complainant was made aware his instruction to close the account was not actioned by the bank,” it said.

New phishing scams

In a separate case, a complainant had packages waiting for collection at the South African Post Office.

He received a notification via email which appeared to be from the post office, with a link, advising him that the packages were at the post office, adding that he needed to pay a “collection fee” of R42.50, said the ombudsman.

“He pressed on the link and inserted card details to make the payment. He received the OTP and inserted the OTP in the link. A few seconds later he received a notification from the bank that an amount of R16,428 had been debited from his account. He reported the matter to the bank and the bank repudiated the claim,” said the report.

The OBS found that the complainant had fallen victim to a phishing scam, giving up his details on a fake Post Office website. When the complainant received the OTP, he did not read the entire notification and merely inserted the OTP.

“Had he read the whole notification, he would have realized it was not a R42.50 payment to the Post Office, but a roughly R16,000 payment to another website,” noted the report.

The complainant unknowingly authorized the fraudulent transaction and the OBS could not find any maladministration on the part of the bank.

Read: Why South Africa is like an old car engine right now: Absa

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The case where a South African had R30,000 taken out of his bank account after he closed it