Cybercrime is on the rise in South Africa

The Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) has raised concerns about the rise in impersonation crimes as fraudsters use phishing, smishing, and vishing to prey on their victims.

Yesterday (5 July 2022), the SAFPS, a non-profit organization that works to fight fraud caused by identity theft and impersonation, revealed the most recent statistics and warned South Africans about the spike in fraud during the first five months of 2022 compared to the same time in 2021.

“This is particularly concerning given the economic climate that we are currently facing,” says Manie, Van Schalkwyk, CEO of the SAFPS. Consumers are facing a significant cycle of high inflation and are looking for ways to make ends meet. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to scams and schemes, which are being carried out by highly-motivated, highly-skilled fraud syndicates.”

According to SAFPS, impersonation rose by 264 percent for the first five months of 2022 compared to 2021 during the review period. It mentions that this might be related to previous significant data breaches.

In recent months, some of SA’s top organizations have fell victim to cybercriminals. Some of the organizations that have been attacked include Dis-Chem, TransUnion, and Experian.

Dis-Chem became the most recent victim in South Africa after a third-party service provider event led to the compromising of the data on more than 3.6 million clients. “It was brought to our attention on 1 May 2022, that an unauthorized party had managed to gain access to the contents of the database. Upon being made aware of the incident, we immediately commenced an investigation into the matter to ensure that the appropriate steps were taken to prevent any further incidents,” said Dischem in a statement.

TransUnion was hacked by a group that held the credit bureau and 54 million South Africans’ personal details for a $15 million (R223 million) ransom. In a related incident, Experian had part of the personal data of up to 24 million South Africans exposed, along with that of 793 749 corporate.“The various data breaches have all highlighted the vulnerability of personal information and how easily accessible they are to the motivated criminal,” says Van Schalkwyk.tities.

According to the SAFPS, 62 percent of all fraud instances nationwide occurred in Gauteng, the economic hub of South Africa. In comparison to the number of occurrences reported the year before, the number of fraud instances that were documented in 2022 grew by 117 percent. The SAFPS notes that the number of occurrences reported this year grew by 106 percent over those recorded in 2021. KwaZulu-Natal contributed 18% of the fraud events in 2022.

“The interesting statistic for the SAFPS is the increase in the Western Cape,” says Van Schalkwyk. The number of fraud occurrences recorded in the Western Cape increased by 133% from the amount reported in 2021, accounting for 8% of the country’s overall fraud incidents. The SAFPS also issued a warning against fraud involving money mules and falsified documents because it has seen a rise in these activities.

The incidence of money mule fraud and the illicit use of retail banking accounts rose by 97% compared to 2021 cases. “This is a significant problem and not only limited to South Africa,” says Van Schalkwyk. “Money muling is a significant global risk. Reports from Cifas in the UK point out that money muling funds illegal activities such as money laundering, terrorism, and human trafficking. Obviously, this is concerning, particularly within the South African context.”Van Schalkwyk urges the public to be extremely cautious and alert about their banking information.

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