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Crime and Fraud
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Fishing expedition

The level and sophistication of so-called ‘phishing activity’ is gaining such momentum that banks are hard-pressed to keep their clients protected. A visit to any bank site will provide details about these activities. Usually under “Important Notices” clients can view updated information on this type of fraud. For example, Absa has examples of phishing e-mails its customers have received in the past.

‘Phishing’ is essentially the creation of fraudulent emails and web site pages that pretend to be the real thing. Clients may be duped into completing user name and password fields that are then gathered by the fraudsters and used to steal funds off bank accounts.
The bank says it is constantly posting updated messages to its site to provide the latest data on criminal efforts to defraud customers. But, as it points out, clients also have a responsibility to take extreme precautions to safeguard their personal information, bank details and their money.
Says Christo Vrey, Absa Group General Manager: Digital Channels: “Over the past few months our customers have received fraudulent e-mails requesting them to ‘verify’ their logon credentials including their password, and other personal information such as their e-mail address, cellphone number, and even their ATM PIN. The problem is that, at first glance, these e-mails appear to be authentic notifications sent by the bank, but they are not.
“The other problem that cellphone users are experiencing is what is known as a SIM swap. This takes place after the fraudsters have received the customer’s logon details as a result of customers acting on Phishing emails. The cellular provider then transfers a client’s SIM card identity to that of a fraudster’s card, cancelling the previous SIM card in the process. The result is no signal on the old SIM card which means the client cannot receive or make phone calls or send SMS messages.”
The ‘one time’ password, which is sent to the customer, then reaches the fraudster instead, allowing him to create and pay beneficiaries.
Mr Vrey adds that under no circumstances would Absa, or any other bank, ever request personal information such as account or logon details via an e-mail. “We continually communicate with our clients never to act on an e-mail requesting any sort of personal or financial information.”
Fraudsters are using more sophisticated methods in these online phishing scams and are even targeting local companies directly, using the names, look and feel of the major South African brands.
In an attempt to stay one step ahead of this activity, Absa’s digital channels are monitored and stringent security measures are in place to mitigate any risk of potential online fraud.
Absa recommends the following action. If a customer suspects that he is the recipient of a phishing e-mail, he should not click on any of the links in the e-mail or complete any of the information. The e-mail should be deleted immediately.
A customer who falls prey to an unlawful SIM swap should contact his cellular service provider to find out why the phone has no signal. He should also immediately phone the Absa Internet Banking contact centre on 08600 08600 if the SIM swap has taken place to request that his Internet Banking service be suspended with immediate effect.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.10 1st November, 2007
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