How to detect and avoid online scams

By David and Libby Koch for News.com.au

Digital technology, social media and e-mail have changed the way we communicate – but it also gives criminals easier access to victims.

Online scams are so sophisticated and appear so authentic that they are conning thousands of Australians out of millions of dollars. And the scams are like cockroaches — you can’t seem to kill them.

It has been particularly distressing for us to receive emails from readers and viewers who have lost money on Facebook scams recommending investing in Bitcoin or endorsing an erectile dysfunction lotion.

These are constantly reported to Facebook who take them down, but then they immediately reappear apparently using a different server.

The worst scams doing the rounds to be aware of and avoid at the moment are:

• Netflix: Fake emails claiming your account has been blocked because of payment issues and asks for bank details to resume service.

• Paypal: Fake emails wanting your bank details and passwords to confirm account.

• SARS impersonators: Telephone using an automated voice claiming you haven’t lodged a tax return and to call a number or legal action will commence immediately. A similar scam claims to be from a law enforcement agency.

• Gift Cards: Fake emails claiming you owe a company payment and they only want you to be paid by gift cards like iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Australia Post Load&Go prepaid debit cards.

• Celebrity endorsement scams: Use a well-known personality to sell products ranging from face creams and cosmetics to weight loss and investments.

• Governance: Scammers are even pretending to be regulators and asking for personal details to renew business or company names online.

• Surprise inheritances or money owed: Usually posing as a lawyer or accountant, these scammers notify you they are holding money in your name from an inheritance or lost superannuation and want your bank details to transfer it over.

• Telco and energy bills: Fake invoices and statements from Telstra and Optus as well as Origin and AGL demanding immediate payment. Or they claim you’ve overpaid or entitled a refund and want bank details to send the money.

• Phishing never seems to go away. These are authentic-looking emails supposedly from your bank asking you to click a link to the bank website and verify all your details and passwords. It’s a con.

One wrong click of the mouse could be costly.

The list of digital scams is almost endless, and we haven’t even got to pyramid schemes, dating scams and online shopping.

Now that we’ve scared you with ways you can be conned out, here are some key ways to protect yourself.:

1. Never give your password, PIN, bank details or Tax File Number to anyone online or over the phone. Generally no legitimate company will ask for those details online. If you’re uncertain, ring the bank or telco and check whether it is legitimate. If someone rings us and asks for us to verify our details we’ll ask them to tell us what they have rather than us volunteer the information.

2. Review your security and privacy details on social media and be careful with who you connect with.

3. Choose passwords carefully. We have to remember an enormous number passwords across different accounts but it is important to make them hard to crack. Use a password authenticator app or a password keeper on your smartphone.

4. Check for clues on the authenticity of an email. If it uses a general, rather than a personal, greeting you need to beware. Fakes often have bad grammar, sound overly official and are poor quality.

5. Beware of unusual methods of payment. A lot of scammers like to work outside traditional financial systems and processes. Anyone who wants payment by a gift card or virtual currencies (like Bitcoin) is usually a crook and probably into money laundering.

6. Don’t agree to deals straight away. Tell the person who calls that you’re not interested or that you want to get independent advice before making a decision. Then you can do more research to verify an offer.

7. Visit Google and other websites to verify information.

9. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The most powerful filter you have against scams is your gut feel. These offers are probably best avoided or, at least, need detailed verification.

Be on your guard.

By Wendy Knowler for Herald Live

Credit card fraud has been rapidly outpacing all other forms of bank fraud in recent months, with many older people being sweet-talked by fraudsters posing as bank officials into revealing their one-time-password (OTP) over the phone.

The Ombudsman for Banking Services, Reana Steyn, issued a warning about the alarming trend, revealing that 58% of the bank clients who complained about falling victim to credit card fraud in the past three months were older than 61 and 11% were older than 80.

“Not long ago credit card fraud was number five in our list of complaint categories, and now it’s number two, comprising 19,45% of all complaints,” Steyn said.

“That’s up from about 12% in December. At this rate it will soon overtake internet banking fraud to occupy the top spot.”

In a typical scenario, a bank client gets a call from a fraudster claiming to be phoning from their bank. In most cases, the fraudster already has the person’s credit card number.

The fraudster has gone onto an online shopping site – two of their favourites are Takealot and Foschini, Steyn said – and, poised to buy with victim’s credit card, they convince them that in order to help the bank prevent them from falling victim to fraud, they must please read out the OTP which has been sent to them via SMS.

The victim complies, and then the shopping begins.

The fraudsters also con people into believing that the bank will give them extra bank loyalty rewards points if they answer a few questions, Steyn said.

In the process of that Q&A, they’re asked for their OTP.

In one case, a fraudster asked a woman if she would like to convert her bank rewards points into cash. With that benefit in mind, she read out her OTP.

Alarmed at getting similar calls on the same day, she phoned her bank, but had already been defrauded of R11,200.

“Credit card fraud is a growing concern as banking systems increase in speed and efficiency,” Steyn said. “At the same time, fraudsters apply more sophisticated tactics to defraud and rob customers of their hard-earned money and savings.

“All bank customers, particularly the elderly, need to be knowledgeable and vigilant about their preferred banking channels.”

What not to do:

  • Never share personal and confidential information with strangers over the phone.
  • Banks will never ask you to confirm your confidential information over the phone.
  • If you receive an OTP on your phone without having transacted yourself, it is likely that it is a fraudster who has used your personal information. Do not provide the OTP to anybody. Contact your bank immediately to alert them to the possibility that your information may have been compromised.

How to complain:

  • Lodge a formal, written complaint directly with your bank’s dispute resolution department.Ask for a complaint reference number from your bank.
  • Allow the bank 20 working days in which to respond to your complaint.
  • Obtain a written response from your bank and if you are not satisfied with the outcome, please log the complaint with the Ombudsman for Banking Services.

By Crecey Kuyedzwa for Fin24 

Former white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe who had their land expropriated under the fast track land reform programme in the early 2000’s have accepted government’s offer of an interim payment of RTGS$53m (R238m at current exchange rates).

In 2000 Zimbabwe expropriated land from white commercial farmers without compensation and distributed it to landless black people and the connected elite, who now own multiple farms.

The country budgeted RTGS$53m in its 2019 national budget as compensation to the former farmers, and the offer has now been accepted by a union representing them. The compensation is for farm improvements.

Zimbabwe introduced a new currency called the RTGS$, or real-time gross settlement dollar, in February. One RTGS$ can buy R4.50, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on Monday morning.

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In a statement the Commercial Farmers Union said they had to accept the advanced interim payment as some farmers were in financial distress.

“As this is a limited fund, it is hoped that those who are not in financial distress do not take it up so as to maximise the effect on others not so fortunate.”

The total bill could run into billions and the Zimbabwean government is working with international financial institutions on how best to fund the compensation.

In its own statement on the issue, which was released over the weekend, the Zimbabwean government said by end of April 2019 the registration papers for beneficiary farmers would be complete and disbursements will commence.

Valuations for farm improvements are also expected to be completed by end of May 2019, reads the statement.

Businesses to sue Eskom

Source: 702

Eskom – as a state-owned entity – has a legal obligation to provide electricity to the people of South Africa, says Elaine Bergenthuin, MD at De Beer Attorneys.

De Beer Attorneys is preparing to take legal action against Eskom for losses suffered by businesses and commercial entities as a result of load shedding.

If the business in question had a specific contract with Eskom regarding the provision of electricity, then Eskom’s failure to supply power will form the basis of its claim.

If a business bases its claim on delict, then De Beer Attorneys will again need to prove that Eskom’s conduct was wrongful or negligent.

De Beer Attorneys expects Eskom to argue that load shedding, per se, is neither wrongful for negligent – in so far as it is a rational, responsible response to the electricity crisis, ensuring that SA’s electricity grid will not collapse, which would be an unmitigated disaster.

The law firm, however, argues that the electricity crisis itself is something which is of Eskom’s own making – due to its negligence in maintaining the electricity infrastructure.

As such, they should still be held accountable for the losses suffered.

De Beer Attorneys will evaluate each case on its own merits.

De Beer Attorneys is calling on all affected businesses that have suffered clear, quantifiable losses as a result of Eskom’s scheduled power outages, as well as public interest groups who wish to hold Eskom to account to please contact it at eskom@debeerattorneys.com.

Source: MyBroadband

Load-shedding continued to plague South Africa this month, and one of the reasons for Eskom’s electricity shortage is the damage caused to burners by poor-quality coal.

Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali recently said rocks instead of coal were supplied to one of Eskom’s power stations, which caused damage to the burners.

This damage caused unplanned outages and electricity shortages which forced Eskom to implement load-shedding.

An Eskom engineer working at a power station confirmed that poor-quality coal which contains rocks caused serious damage to their equipment.

He added that in December, four of the six turbines at the power station he works at were seized up because of this problem.

“The piping that is supposed to transfer steam to the turbines from the boilers has ruptured due to the wrong grade of coal being used, that contains rocks that have exploded,” he said.

Rocks sold as coal
SABC News recently published photos of rocks which one of Eskom’s suppliers were trying to sell to the power utility as coal.

LontohCoal CEO Tshepo Kgadima told SABC News that the photos came from trucks which tried to deliver these rocks as coal to Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station in Mpumalanga.

“That is not coal. That is a lump of crushed rock which cannot be milled and cannot combust under any circumstances,” said Kgadima.

He said these trucks were thankfully turned away, but added that it highlights the challenges which exist at Eskom’s power stations.

“How is it possible that the power plant operators do not know the geological conditions of the mines where they are supposed to get their coal from?” he asked.

These rocks are shown below.

You could be jailed for lying on your CV

By Tom Head for The South African

The National Qualifications Amendment Bill is not here to play, ladies and gentlemen. The adjustment to the existing legislation comes with some pretty stern updates, which aims to clamp-down on dishonesty from applicants who embellish the truth on a CV.

The South African Qualifications Association (SAQA) will be charged with monitoring the registered qualifications of each citizen in South Africa. That’s quite the task for such a modest regulatory body, but the ANC has voted the move through in Parliament.

What is the National Qualifications Amendment Bill?

Cyril Ramaphosa now has the final say on what happens next – it’ll be his decision on whether the government should plough ahead with the proposals should they remain in power after Wednesday 8 May.

The bill isn’t likely to impact working-to-middle class workers too much, but it will serve as a deterrent to citizens applying for high-profile jobs. Executives, CEOs and even our politicians will be subject to rigorous background checks. If they are found to be lying about their educational history, stiff penalties await:

“Any person convicted of an offence in terms of this act is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a term of no longer than five years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.”

“Any person, educational institution, board member or director may be ordered to close its business and be declared unfit to register a new business for a period not exceeding 10 years.”

Lying on your CV could soon be a serious legal issue

The punishment is not retroactive – so if your name is Jacob Zuma or Hlaudi Motsoeneng, you can breathe a sigh of relief. But if Ramaphosa decides to give this the green light, you may well have told your last porkie on a resume.

As IOL report, 97 national qualifications and 95 foreign qualifications were misrepresented between last October and November. That increased the total number of fraudulent applications up to 1 564 over the past 10 years.

The bill also aims to publish a “name and shame” list for those who try and push their luck just a little too far. So, if your CV is looking a little bare at the moment, try and think outside of the box – and not outside of reality.

 

How loadshedding affects your security

By Ntwaagae Seleka for News24

Home owners and businesses have been urged to test their security systems as a matter of urgency and to pay particular attention to the battery back-up systems during load shedding periods.

“Many people are under the incorrect assumption that their home alarm system is deactivated when the power supply is interrupted. However, if you have a stable and correctly programmed system coupled with a battery that is in good condition, it will continue to protect the premises during a power outage – regardless if the outage is because of load shedding or not,” said Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

The only time it may not function correctly is if there is a technical issue, or the battery power is low.

“Most modern alarm systems have a back-up battery pack that activates automatically when there is a power failure. There are a number of practical steps that can be taken to ensure security is not compromised during any power cuts.

“Some of these include ensuring that the alarm system has an adequate battery supply, that all automated gates and doors are secured and lastly to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your security provider or the South African Police Service,” said Hattingh.

With the added inconvenience of the lights going out at night due to power cuts, candles and touch-lights are handy alternatives.

Home owners are also advised that it is important that their alarm systems have adequate battery supply and that batteries should be checked regularly. Alarms should be checked during extended power outages to keep systems running.

Power cuts can affect fire systems and fire control systems, so these also need to be checked regularly. The more frequent use of gas and candles can increase the risk of fire and home fire extinguishers should be on hand.

People are urged to remain vigilant during power cuts and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and report this to their security company or the police immediately.

Hattingh said home and business owners should consider installing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, which is integrated into the alarm system’s wiring and automatically switches on for a maximum of 15 minutes when there is a power outage.

“If there is an additional battery pack, the small, non-intrusive LED lights can stay on for the duration of the power outage – or a maximum of 40 hours – without draining the primary alarm battery. Because of load shedding, there might also be a higher than usual number of alarm activation signals received by security companies and their monitoring centres.

“This could lead to a delay in monitoring centre agents making contact with customers. You can assist by manually cancelling any potential false alarms caused by load shedding, and thus help call centre agents in prioritising the calls needing urgent attention,” said Hattingh.

 

By Ferial Haffajee for Fin24

Eskom and government have started planning for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding, according to officials who say that there is a race against time to ensure that a national blackout and grid collapse does not happen.

Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding imply shedding 5000 MW and 6000 MW respectively.

For businesses and residential consumers, it means more frequent cuts of the same duration, depending on where you live and who supplies your power.

Eskom’s website also contains load shedding schedules up to Stage 8 but has not implemented stages beyond Stage 4.

At the first major briefing to explain the fourth day of Stage 4 power cuts, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said that the government and Eskom were determined not to go beyond Stage 4 load shedding where 4000 MW has to be shed in long and regular blackouts to business and residential consumers.

But it is now clear that there is planning to Stage 5 and Stage 6 in order to ensure that there is no national blackout.

“It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis,” said Gordhan.

An extensive briefing by Eskom executives and the Department of Public Enterprises on Tuesday has made it clear that the national power supply is more precarious than previously understood. South Africa has bought all available diesel on the high seas (to run emergency power), maintenance of power plants is in crisis because boiler tubes are bursting at eight units across three power stations and there is a planned strike early in April.

What does this mean for you?

Load shedding is here to stay and possibly at extended lengths now being experienced across the country. In addition, Eskom is in dispute with the National Energy Regulator with SA (Nersa) on its calculation of the Regulatory Clearing Account and it wants to be able to implement higher tariff increases.

Nersa gave Eskom much lower additional tariff clearances than it requested, but these already added four percentage points to the allowable tariff of just above 9% for 2019/20. Is there light? A little.

On Thursday, a ship with diesel stocks will dock and this supply will ease the crisis; in 10 days, the government will report back with a deeper diagnosis of South Africa’s power woes.

All that government could really offer on Tuesday is that there will be better communication of the crisis with the public and an effort to design blocks of blackouts friendlier to life and the economy.

“We are very far from a point of total black-out. The system operators main task is to defend and protect the grid,” said Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza in a briefing designed to shed light after four days of load-shedding which has left the economy teetering and the nation seething.

“We don’t want to remain in a vicious cycle where load-shedding shifts to other crises (like a water crisis because plants go down in power cuts). We are committed to rebuilding the energy supply and energy confidence,” said Gordhan. One of the reasons for the latest power crisis is that it takes too long to buy the parts Eskom needs to maintain its power station fleet, said Mabuza.

The government will be going to the National Treasury to seek an opt-out of strict procurement laws to provide for emergency and faster purchasing.

“We are talking to the Treasury, to the Auditor-General to design processes very quickly to enable Eskom to be more responsive. (But we will) make sure no malfeasance is allowed during that process. People will try to take the gap. We will make sure it doesn’t happen,” said Gordhan who earlier revealed that 3000 staff at Eskom are doing business with the utility.

An estimated 1000 of the moonlighters have been identified.

Staff trading with Eskom is a conflict of interest which has driven up prices and is one factor in the debt pile that Eskom is carrying.

Mabuza also disputed a growing narrative by former executives of Eskom who use social media to disseminate a view that independent power producers (IPP’s) of renewable energy are responsible for the utility’s financial woes and for load-shedding.

“The board has asked me to say it is not appropriate to keep quiet about the IPP’s. In the revenue determination of what is allowable, there’s a budget of R30bn for IPP’s. In so far as Eskom is concerned, what we buy on IPP’s we recoup from the tariff. We are neutral as far as Eskom is concerned – we pass it onto the consumer. If we spend more than R30bn we get it back through the RCA (the regulatory clearing account). We have many problems at Eskom; IPP’s are not the cause of our problems,” said Mabuza.

“We fully understand that frustration and we want to apologise. At the same time, I want to appeal for understanding [in terms of] the nature of the challenges,” said Gordhan who did not give a deadline of when the deep and long load-shedding will stop.

He appealed for understanding from the country and said that South Africans should conserve as much electricity as possible. Eskom will reintroduce its programme of buying spare capacity from industrial users who may not need all the energy they are producing at private power stations.

South Africa has 48000 megawatts of installed energy but it only currently has 28 000 megawatts available daily, causing the gaping deficit that leads to ricocheting power cuts.

There are three senior fix-it teams working on the problem, said Gordhan. A presidential task team has presented one report to Cabinet; the Eskom board and management have presented their own 9-point turnaround plan and there is a team of between 12 and 14 private sector engineers combing through the Eskom power stations to present their own diagnostic report of what is going wrong.

Asked if too many cooks did not spoil the broth and whether government risked throwing structures at the problem, Gordhan said the power crisis needed more rather than fewer eyes on the problem or the risk of groupthink (where people begin to think alike and no longer question each other’s assumptions or points of view) was high.

“There is an eagerness and determination to get to the bottom of what the problems are. To answer the question: ‘How long will load-shedding last’? We will come back to you in 10 to 14 days. We have no magic formula. There is no magic wand to say load-shedding is over. It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis. We want to give the public as much information as possible,” said Gordhan.

In the parking lot of the hotel in which the briefing was held, a generator droned loudly. Rosebank in Johannesburg faced Stage 4 load-shedding for the entire period of the briefing – a graphic display of the crisis being described.

Several European banks have been drawn into money-laundering allegations centered on dirty Russian money. Much of the information has been made available to media outfits by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or OCCRP. Investigations into the scandal are under way in the Baltic nations, the US, the UK and the Nordic countries. Below is a list of the main banks touched by the scandal.

Danske Bank A/S

Denmark’s biggest bank admitted in September that much of about $230bn that flowed through its tiny Estonian unit between 2007 and 2015 was probably suspicious in origin.

The lender is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as by authorities in Denmark, Estonia, the U.K. and France.

Swedbank AB

Swedish broadcaster SVT alleged that almost $6bn in suspicious transactions flowed between Danske Bank and Swedbank in 2007-2015, linking the Swedish bank to Danske’s $230bn money-laundering scandal.

The bank is being investigated by the financial supervisory authorities of Sweden and Estonia. It’s also being probed by Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority for allegedly breaching insider information rules.

Nordea Bank Abp

The biggest Nordic bank allegedly handled about €700m in potentially dirty money, with funds arriving from failed Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas and heading to shell companies in countries such as the British Virgin Islands and Panama, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Investor Bill Browder filed complaints with Nordic authorities in October alleging $405m of suspicious funds flowed via the bank. Sweden decided not to investigate but Finland has yet to say if it will.

Deutsche Bank AG

More than $889m went from accounts at Deutsche Bank to those of the so-called “Troika Laundromat” between 2003 and 2017, according to German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung—part of the OCCRP journalist group.

The report comes on top of regulatory scrutiny of Deutsche Bank’s role as a correspondent bank in Danske Bank’s money-laundering scandal and a probe by German prosecutors of its involvement in a tax-evasion scheme unmasked by the Panama Papers in 2016.

Raiffeisen Bank International AG

The Austrian bank that’s among the biggest foreign lenders in Russia is the main target of a filing by the Hermitage Fund, detailing $634m allegedly transferred to it from Lithuania’s Ukio Bankas and from the Estonian unit of Danske Bank. Hermitage said the bank ignored signs that should have triggered money-laundering prevention measures.

Raiffeisen has launched an internal probe, yet also points out that Hermitage has filed similar allegations before and that they were dismissed by Austrian authorities.

ABN Amro Group NV

The Troika Laundromat moved about €190m through a unit of the Dutch bank that became part of Royal Bank of Scotland, Dutch newspaper Trouw and magazine De Groene Amsterdammer reported. All assets, data and clients of the unit became the legal responsibility of RBS in February 2008, ABN said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank.

Cooperatieve Rabobank U.A.

About €43m were paid to the Rabobank account of Dutch yacht builder Heesen for construction of two boats for Russian senator Valentin Zavadnikov, according to newspaper Trouw and magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. The money came from the Troika Laundromat scheme, the media outlets said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank.

ING Groep NV

The Dutch bank’s branch in Moscow worked until 2013 with a client who it suspected of involvement in money laundering, the media outlets said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank. ING last year paid $900m to end a Dutch money-laundering probe.

Turkiye Garanti Bankasi A.S.

The Dutch unit of the Turkish bank processed €200m in transactions that came from two Lithuanian banks that were at the center of the Troika Laundromat, the Dutch media outlets reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear if it was being investigated.

By Raymond Brown for Cambridge News

A secretary sold £48 000 of office supplies bought on a company credit card on eBay and told police she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford”.

Jessica Prince, 35, of North Brink, Wisbech, was suspected of fraud after her employer’s accountant received an invoice from an unregistered supplier.

Prince had been selling ink cartridges and other office supplies purchased on her company credit card for a profit using her personal eBay account.

She has been jailed for 20 months.

How Prince’s scheme worked
Her scheme was discovered after it was found that the company had spent more than £48,000 on ink cartridges and other office equipment in the space of seven months, with invoices being doctored to conceal what was actually being ordered.

Prince had been employed as the company director’s personal secretary and was responsible for the smooth running and administration of the company office, including ordering stationery, office furniture, booking taxis, flights and hotels.

An internal investigation revealed Prince had been abusing her position to make large purchases but hiding it from the company director and accountant.

Prince was arrested on July 26 last year and in interview admitted having used her company’s credit card to purchase items and then sell them on for profit.

Officers were told it started off as a mistake after she accidentally purchased the wrong printer toner and was told it was non-refundable. She claimed she was told to sell it through eBay and give the money back to her company. She used her own personal eBay account to sell the toner but kept the money.

This was the first of many instances, placing bigger orders worth thousands of pounds on the company credit card, selling them on for a profit using her personal eBay account.

Prince told officers she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford” but “felt like scum at work because she knew she was committing fraud”.

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