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Women are often the most vulnerable when it comes to fraud

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Off the back of National Savings Moth – which was celebrated in July – followed by South Africa honouring its women in August as it celebrated National Women’s Month.

It is fitting that these two months are celebrated after each other. South Africans hold their women in high regard as they play a vital role not only in society, but in the home.

While women are held in such high regard in society, South African women are often the most vulnerable when it comes to being victims of fraud. “This is something that needs to be addressed with immediate urgency. A national agenda of protection and prosperity can be driven if women are empowered and not perpetual victims of fraud,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, Executive Director of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

Frightening statistics

Recent statistics shows that while some forms of fraud are decreasing, there is a sharp increase in other areas.

“Fraudsters who are using fabricated identification documents (ID’s) and names has decreased by 48% when compared with 2018. However, the impersonation by fraudsters using real ID’s and names has increased by 99% on 2018 figures. This figure doubled every year since 2016, which is extremely concerning,” says van Schalkwyk.

He added that the level of fraudsters using a combination of forged documents – which includes falsified employment details, forged payslips and false qualifications – has also seen a sharp increase. 2018 figures saw an increase of 47% on 2017 figures while there was an increase of 33% in 2019 on 2018s figures.

Eyes wide open

While it is easy to fall victim to fraud, which is driven by the fact that fraudsters are becoming increasingly professional and ingenious in the methods that they use, there are some red flags that victims can look out for in certain situations which are a dead give away to possible illegal activity.

Recently, a customer of a cellular service provider was waiting for a refund of R1 500 from her provider. The provider was not getting back to her in time, so she expressed her frustrations on Facebook. Within hours of her post, a women posing as an employee of the cellular provider contacted the women and offered to help her if she provided the women with her ID number, payslip, and bank statement. The women, desperate to get her refund obliged and gave the information to the lady posing as the employee who urged the women not to speak to anyone else at the provider so that the situation does not become complicated.

A few days later, the disgruntled customer find that R15 000 has been deposited into her account as opposed to R1 500. She received a call from the women posing as the cellular provider employee who asked the lady to refund her with the balance of the funds (R15 000 minus R1 500). This was repeated twice over the following weeks.

It turns out that, furnished with the information that the customer gave her, the women posing as the employee of the cellular provider had opened numerous accounts under the disgruntled customers name.

Red flags

“When one looks at the above case study, one can empathise with the frustration that the customer felt as customer service levels in South Africa are not up to global standards. However, there are a few red flags that have been raised,” said Van Schalkwyk.

  • The cellular provider should have had all the customers details on hand and not have to ask for it to be resubmitted to them. If someone is asking for it, it is a serious red flag;
  • All employees of major companies work off a centralised database and any call centre agent can keep you updated with an ongoing query. If someone tells you not to speak to anyone else at the company, again, it is a serious red flag.

Increased protection

The need to protect women against all types of fraud needs to be made a priority in this country. While care givers and the heart of the home, women are often some of the most vulnerable people in South Africa.

“South Africa has long held the belief that of you strike a woman, you strike a rock. While this is the case in a society where there are an increasing number of women leaders, we need to refocus our attention on a culture of governance and action when it comes to law enforcement. We cannot continue to let the most vulnerable in our society become repeat victims of financial crimes such as fraud. There is too much at stake,” said van Schalkwyk.