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How to avoid Identity theft, Common Scams & Cybercrimes

Scammers only need to get lucky once, you need to be vigilant all the time.

  • What is cybercrime? A Cybercrime is a crime in which a computer and or network is used to commit an offense for exploitative or malicious purposes. Examples include hacking, phishing, or smishing. 
  • Cybercrime is on the increase and is becoming more sophisticated. Recent statistics showed that South Africans lose in excess of R2.2bn to internet fraud attacks annually.  
  • Who are the main victims of cybercrime? Everyone is at risk, individuals and institutions. 
  • The best-known scams are used over-and-over again, because they still catch plenty of people, no matter how often they are warned.

Types of cybercrime in South Africa

Bear in mind that although these are the most typical scams, criminals are constantly trying to find new ways to separate you from your hard-earned cash. You need to be constantly vigilant and if you’re not confident an offer or request is genuine, always check first.

1. Phishing & Smishing

One of the ways scammers try to obtain your personal information is to send an e-mail or an SMS which seems to come from a bank or financial services company or even SARS alerting you to a payment, refund or asking you to confirm your details.

When you click on the link it takes you to a site that looks genuine, but is actually a fraudulent site. As soon as you enter your account details and pin number, the fraudsters can access your account. 

No responsible financial institution should ever send you a link to a bank account log-on page in an e-mail or SMS. Just because an e-mail has a company logo, registration number and address on it, doesn’t mean it’s genuine. 

2. Phishing Malware or “virus” downloads

Phishing can also be associated with dangerous malware downloads. 

What is malware? Malware is any type of malicious software (viruses, ransomware, Trojans, adware, spyware, etc.) that could put your personal information at risk. Malware can be delivered in a phishing email as an attachment that may seem innocent. 

Avoid clicking on attachments or links from unknown sources and high-risk file types like: .exe, .scr, .zip, .com, .bat.

3. Vishing

Vishing is when a scammer (acting as a bank official or service provider) phones a victim to manipulate the victim into sharing his/ her personal information with the scammer. 

Financial institutions are required to state their accreditation and that the phone call will be recorded at the start of a phone call, before attending to a customer. If these items are not covered, put the phone down. 

4. Whaling

Cyber criminals are increasingly using “whaling” instead of “phishing” and “smishing”. Rather than targeting individuals, whaling scams seek to steal information and or money from finance and accounting departments of large organisations. While this may seem harder to achieve, the potential scale of the fraud makes it worthwhile for the criminals.

If you are shopping online, applying for a loan or doing any other transaction which involves providing your personal or banking details, stick with known reputable brands and make sure they have secure practices. 

5. Identity theft

Identify theft scams can be difficult to spot because they don’t always ask for sensitive information. Not all scammers are out to get your money. Some just want to get enough of your personal information, such as ID number, address and date of birth to open a fraudulent store or loan account. Be suspicious of e-mails asking for details that a company should already have.

6. Bogus bargains

Criminals try to cash in at times when people are looking for bargains and gifts. Examples are Black Friday and Christmas. They know that people will be looking for bargains or presents at great prices, so can set up fraudulent websites to try and con online shoppers out of their money. Although this scam is more common overseas than in South Africa, you can be sure it will increasingly start happening here too.

7. Lotto scams

Lottery scams are scams where you’re told you’ve won a lottery and have to provide information such as your banking details to claim the prize. You might also be asked to pay a fee for administration costs. This type of scam is very common in South Africa. 

8. Inheritance scams

The inheritance scam is a variation of the lottery scam. You’re told you’re about to receive a large inheritance and need to some provide personal information and a payment for the transaction to proceed. The scammers assume that greed will overcome reason and that the anticipation of being rich will make people push aside any doubts about whether the request is authentic.

9. Loan Scams

Another way criminals try to get their hands on your money is by pretending to be a legitimate financial services company. If you’re made an offer with an unbelievably low interest rate, don’t believe it.

The way this scam typically works is you receive an e-mail informing you that you’ve qualified for a low-interest loan. It says that to secure the loan you need to pay an upfront fee for administrative, legal or other costs. The offer is often for a limited time, to try and pressurise you into making the payment. Of course, if you pay, the thieves take your money and you never receive the loan.

How to spot a scam

Here are DirectAxis’ tips for identifying common scams.

• You are urged to open an attachment or click on a link in an email or sms. 
• The e-mail or SMS is not personalised. You’re addressed as Sir, Madam or Customer.
• You are offered money for nothing - if it sounds too good to be true, it’s a con.
• You are pressurised into responding (inheritance and limited offers).
• Upfront payment is required (loans or prizes). 
• Personal or account information is requested from an unknown sender or someone with whom you’ve never done business with (be it on email, sms, or phone).
• The website, mail or sms looks unusual. If the logo looks slightly different, the website address seems odd – it is rather than – brand and product names are incorrect, the spelling and grammar is poor or the message has been sent to multiple recipients then the SMS or e-mail you’ve received could be a scam.


What to do if you have been scammed in South Africa?

Most reputable financial institutions and retailers have fraud departments and will act to shut down websites and bank accounts used to try and defraud their customers. If you do think someone’s tried to scam you, report it, even if you have no intention of responding.

Report DirectAxis fraud at:

Report other cybercrimes at and contact the SAPS.

  • DirectAxis

  • 24%


    of customers use loans for consolidation

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    of customers use loans for renovations

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    of customers use loans for education