Putting your personal information online for all to see makes you vulnerable to scams and swindlers, warn the police.
Table View detectives say criminals are always improving on their ways to defraud people and some victims have lost their life savings.
Sergeant Jacinda Govender says criminals can pose as bank consultants to extricate personal information from victims.
“The victim will receive an SMS saying that there’s suspected fraudulent activity on their account and told to contact a particular number.
When the victim calls, they are met by a person claiming to be from their bank. The ‘bank worker’ then tries to get the trust of the victim by acting as if they are trying to help the victim by making his/her account safer by installing new safety features.
When in actual fact, the scammer is getting personal information while over the phone and uses techniques to gain access to the victim’s account and clean them out,” said Sergeant Govender.
One victim, a 75-year-old woman, had lost nearly R200 000, she said.
Another popular scam involves buying-and-selling websites.
“Fraudsters and scammers will pose as people who are buying goods.
They make contact with the seller and send a fake proof of payment notice with a fake letterhead. They often lie to the victim, saying that because they are using a different bank to them, the money will clear in 72 hours or so,” said Sergeant Govender.
Gumtree spokeswoman, Estelle Nagel, said the fake-payment scam was pretty prevalent online – not just in the classifieds but also on social media.
“Scammers will either fake a proof of payment or make a cheque-deposit payment (cancelling the cheque once the goods arrive). People must always wait for funds to clear before handing anything over to a buyer.
“A proof of payment is not enough. You can check whether funds have cleared online or with your bank. Another thing people should do is always trust their gut because if they feel like something is wrong, trust that instinct,” she said.
Warrant Officer Estelle Farmer said social media was also used to target lonely and vulnerable people.
Scammers viewed people’s profiles on places like Facebook and used the information to gain the victim’s trust.
“Always be careful about what you post on social media and how much personal information you give out. Some scammers see if you’re divorced, you’re a widow or widower and use that to gain your trust. Don’t put out all your personal information about your life as well. And never meet people in secluded areas.
Always make sure you’re in a public place or police station when meeting someone to buy or sell goods or meeting someone you know from social media,” she said.
Sergeant Govender said they had recently dealt with a case where a woman had been convinced by the lover she had met online to take money from her work.
“Be careful not to become a suspect as well. This lady was convinced and got into a relationship with a man she met online who claimed to be a British man looking for love. Once he gained her trust, he asked for a loan. She trusted him and embezzled over a million rand from her company. You might start off being the victim of a scam but as soon as you actively participate in illegal activity at the behest of someone else, you become a criminal as well,” she said.
The public were welcome to approach the police for information, she added.
“If people aren’t certain about things, they can come to us before getting into business with strangers. We can help tell them the latest trends and things to look out for. We are encouraging people to always make SAPS their first point of contact. We often hear of people posting on social media about being scammed. We can’t help if people don’t report these things to us,” she said.