Most people will find themselves the victim of a phishing scam at some point, although you might not even be aware that it has a name. We tend to just ignore these types of emails, but it is a good idea to contact the affected company, just to make them aware of the situation. You should always double check before responding to emails or texts of this nature.
What is a phishing scam?
Phishing scams exist when scammers pretend to be from a specific company and will correspond with you via email or SMS to let you know about a service or will ask for specific details. South Africa is the second most targeted country for phishing scams in the world, but these can really affect anyone in any country. The scammer will often send emails offering loans or other financial services and may ask for a deposit or an admin fee to process the loan. A loan which you will never see. In other cases, they may just ask for details, such as bank account details. This image below, courtesy of Wonga shows a typical phishing scam which you might get via an SMS. Wonga were not involved in a data breach of customer information, however their brand image was used as the ‘mask’ for a campaign last year.
Fig1: example of a fake text used in a phishing attack.
What is the purpose of phishing scams?
The general purpose of these scams is for the scammer to be able to get access to your personal details or to get money from you. If you complete the information they ask for, they may empty your bank account, go in and read your emails or even lock you out of your account. They also target companies, as well as individuals. Phishing scams have been a problem for many companies, including Wonga and are a regular occurrence for EBay and PayPal.
How to avoid phishing scams?
There are various ways you can protect yourself against phishing scams. It may be tempting to take advantage of the offer of a loan when money is tight, but if you are applying for any credit, always go via the company website. You shouldn’t need to pay anything up front for a loan, although you will be asked for your payment details, in order for a direct debit to be set up to pay it back. You should look closely at the email address as it will often not be from the company and will instead be a random email or it may have spelling errors in it. Other notable signs of a scam are a link to fake website or a demand to take urgent action. They probably won’t address you by your own name either, as they won’t know it.
What to do aout a phishing scam?
If you think you may have been the victim of a phishing scam, you should contact the fraud hotline, such as the one which has been set up by Wonga. You can find out more information here. Every company will have different methods in place to deal with these kinds of scams, so make sure you check the ‘official’ website to find out.