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SIM-swap fraud incidents more than double in South Africa

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has released its inaugural digital banking crime statistics.

According to the report, in 2017 there were 13,438 incidents across banking apps, online banking and mobile banking – costing the industry more than R250 million in gross losses.

Incidents from January to August 2018 already show a 64% increase, however Sabric noted that the increase in gross losses was just 7% when compared to the same period in 2017.

When comparing January to August 2017 to the same period in 2018, mobile banking incidents doubled (increase of 100%) with gross losses of R23,593,631, while online banking incidents showed an increase of 44% with gross losses of R89,368,722.

For the same period, banking app incidents increased by 20%, with gross losses of R70,156,364.

Notably, there were 4,040 SIM-swaps incidents from January to August 2017 and 8,254 incidents from January to August 2018 – an increase of 104%.

“Criminals are always looking for ways to exploit digital platforms to defraud victims, but the mitigation strategies deployed by banks are very robust, so it is easier to target people as they are the weakest link,” said Kalyani Pillay, Sabric CEO.

Pillay added that criminals are very skilled at using social engineering to manipulate their victims into divulging their personal or confidential information.

“They capitalize on the fact that not all digital banking clients are digitally literate and exploit this vulnerability. Using technology, coupled with social engineering, criminals can gather sufficient information to impersonate victims, bypassing bank security protocols,” she said.

Sabric said that it is working closely with the SAPS and mobile network operators to address this scourge.

Below it outlined tips to avoid becoming a victim of SIM-swap fraud:

  • If reception on your cell phone is lost, immediately check what the problem could be, as you could have been a victim of an illegal SIM swop on your number. If confirmed, notify your bank immediately.
  • Inform your Bank should your cell phone number changes so that your cell phone notification contact number is updated on its systems.
  • Register for your Bank’s cell phone notification service and receive electronic messages relating to activities or transactions on your accounts as and when they occur.
  • Regularly verify whether the details received from cell phone notifications are correct and according to the recent activity on your account. Should any detail appear suspicious immediately contact your Bank and report all log-on notification that are unknown to you.
  • Memorise your PIN and passwords, never write them down or share them, not even with a bank official.
  • Make sure your PIN and passwords cannot be seen when you enter them.
  • If you think your PIN and/or password has been compromised, change it immediately either online or at your nearest branch.
  • Choose an unusual PIN and password that are hard to guess and change them often.



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