New ‘loyalty’ scam on the rise in South Africa – what to look out for

 ·29 Jul 2023

Discovery Bank has urged caution over a new cellphone network loyalty programme scam that is on the rise in South Africa.

The Bank warned on 25 July that scammers are exploiting cellphone network loyalty programmes – such as Vodacom’s VodaBucks – to target unsuspecting victims.

It said those that have fallen victim received a message claiming their reward points or balance is about to expire.

To redeem them, you must click on the link provided in the message. However, this link is designed to steal your personal information for financial gain, noted the bank.

“Once you click on the link, you’ll be directed to a convincing but fake website, where you’ll be prompted to enter card details and an OTP.

“Instead of redeeming rewards, you’ll unknowingly authorise fraudulent transactions,” said Discovery.

To avoid this scam, the urges South Africans to stay vigilant and suspicious of any loyalty programme-related messages – adding that you should always verify the sender’s details, avoid clicking any links, and never share sensitive information such as your card details.

Discovery added that if you received any OTP verification message, always read the message carefully to make sure it’s linked to actions you’ve initiated.

Additionally, in order to put a stop to any fraudulent transactions, the bank also recommends keeping up with all your transactions by enabling real-time notifications on your banking app.

If you do come across a suspicious message, Discovery advises you to notify your bank and forward the message to the relevant service provider.

Other popular messaging scams to watch out for

Carey van Vlaanderen, the CEO of ESET Southern Africa, provided a list of messaging scams that are very popular at the moment, with many scammers also targeting WhatsApp as a popular platform to engage with potential victims.

The most common types of messaging scams in South Africa, as outlined by Vlaanderen, are:

  • Phishing scams: Fraudsters send messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, like a WhatsApp business account of a retailer, insurer or bank, and ask the victim to click on a link or provide personal information.

  • Pretexting scams: Scammers spin a false narrative or use a pretext to gain the victim’s trust, such as pretending to be a customer service representative or a co-worker and then asking for sensitive information.

  • Baiting scams: Users are offered something of value, such as a gift, discount or prize, in exchange for personal information or actions, such as clicking on a link or downloading a file.

  • Scareware scams: Attackers create a sense of urgency or fear to manipulate the victim into taking immediate action, such as downloading fake antivirus software or paying a ransom to avoid legal consequences.

  • Fake job offers: Scammers send messages claiming to offer job opportunities and ask users to pay a fee or provide personal information to secure the job.

  • Investment scams: Scammers send messages offering high returns on investment and ask users to transfer money to fraudulent accounts.

  • Romance scams: Con artists create fake profiles on WhatsApp and other dating apps to establish relationships with users and then ask for money or personal information.

Read: Warning over new bank scam in South Africa

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