How to avoid cyberscams
Jacky Fick, head of Cell C’s Forensic Services
Every few months, concerns about online scams and theft are raised as a new wave of victims comes forward. It can leave one feeling vulnerable and uncertain. But a little knowledge goes a long way in this fight. Your phone can open a lot of doors for cybercriminals. Once they have their hands on things like phone numbers and home addresses, they can find ways to hijack your financial accounts. Make sure you lock your phone with a password, swipe gesture or fingerprint reader. If the phone is stolen, it can be remotely wiped and even disabled. This depends on the type of phone, but it can also be done with third party apps if they are installed. A phishing email could offer supposed Lotto winnings, unclaimed tax refunds or a surprise inheritance. Phishing scams often mimic banks: an SMS offering a raise in a credit card limit or a formal email requesting an update of your details. Whatever the message, the goal is to steal information by posing as something else. The first rule is that if you get an offer that seems too good to be true, it is. Always be suspicious.
The second rule is to check the source. If the message looks as if it came from a bank, call the bank.
Thirdly, never share personal information with someone who contacted you. If they called you, call back using the official company hotline number, not one they provide. Don’t click on suspicious-looking links in emails or instant messages. Delete them immediately. Institutions such as banks will not request personal information in that way. They will ask that you visit a branch. You cannot add beneficiaries or undertake certain transfers without a phone to supply one-time PINs or approval. This is why SIM card swaps are so attractive to criminals; they represent the keys to the city. The number on a phone is based on the SIM card inside. But that number can be electronically transferred to another SIM. Anyone who has held on to their number for several years will have used a SIM swap service. It’s a legitimate service, but can be manipulated to make an unauthorised swap. This is often done over the phone, when a criminal poses as the SIM card’s owner. It’s important to know that SIM swaps happen at an advanced stage of the crime. If they are attempting a SIM swap, it means they already have information such as banking details. They may also have enough personal information to try to get through the security questions. This is why phishing is so dangerous.
Avoid installing unofficial apps. These can be used to sneak bad software on to your device. Use the official app stores, where apps are checked and secure.
Apply patches to software, particularly updates to your phone’s system. These often contain fixes for problems that criminals could use to access your information.
Email is not the only danger. Any type of link or file attachment can be dangerous. If you receive offers or request for information over SMS, WhatsApp, MMS or other means, don’t click on any link it contains. Delete the message instead.
Take care with public Wi-Fi and unsecured internet connections. Information sent over these networks can be intercepted.