With a touch of a finger, fraud can take place from your phone. SMS scams, known as SMShing or SMishing, are common. We asked the experts about the SMS scams doing the rounds right now – and how to avoid them.

Common South African SMS scams

Bryan Turner, Gadget and Data Analyst at WorldWideWorx, says common scams include:

Congratulations, you’ve won a prize, all you have to do is …
You receive an SMS saying you have won a prize, usually in the millions. Bryan says the fraudster will ask their victim for a small deposit, a few thousand rand or so, to get the transaction cleared. There is no prize, it’s just a way to get your money.

I’m from your bank, I need a PIN to prevent a fraudulent transaction
You’re contacted by someone claiming, falsely, to be from your bank. Bryan says this fraudster will tell you that your account has been frozen, and they require a one-time PIN that your bank SMSd you to be read to them. They then use your PIN to log in and perform fraudulent transactions. What has actually happened is that someone has tried to login and transact using your details but needed a one-time PIN to get access to the account. And you’ve given it to them!

Is that your SIM?
SIM swap scams have increased dramatically recently, according to Bryan. SIM swap scams can be quite involved. A fraudster will obtain your personal and banking details through emails (phishing) or some other way. They will then pose as you to a mobile service provider and request a SIM swap. Because the criminal now has your personal information, bank details and cell number they can log in to your accounts, perform any number of transactions and receive any one-time PINs or authorisation requests. Worse, because they now have your SIM, you won’t receive the notification from your bank saying someone is accessing your account so it may be some time before you realise you have been scammed.

How to avoid getting scammed

Phones are the ideal vehicle for scams, because we are always on them! When we get an SMS, we might believe what it says, or we might not be paying attention. If we see the word urgent, we think we need to act immediately.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre  (Sabric) says criminals know how much we use our phones, and that we are often in a hurry when we use them, so we are less likely to scrutinise SMSs.

Criminals are sophisticated and their sole purpose is to trick us to part with our money. Sometimes the SMS and scam seem so real we fall for it.

To avoid getting scammed:

  • Read the SMS carefully. Bad spelling, grammar and punctuation is an indication the SMS is a scam.
  • Call your bank on the number you know, not the one in an SMS, to see if someone calling from a bank is actually from your bank.
  • Never send any money to anyone who sends you an SMS with banking details. Bryan says you must always obtain banking details from official sources like verified websites or by contacting official numbers.
  • Don’t click on links or icons from anyone or phone number you don’t know.
  • Be skeptical – if an SMS says urgent security alert, offer or deal, Sabric suggests you view it as a potential hack.
  • Watch out for lost reception – it could be an indicator that someone is trying to swap your SIM.
  • Sabric also cautions against storing credit card and banking information on your smartphone.
  • Don’t give your number out too often. Bryan says scammers can obtain their “phone book” from the visitors’ book at affluent office parks or residential complexes. He says you are not obliged to provide your personal details in these books if you don’t want to.

What you should do if an SMS is suspicious or you’ve been scammed?

  • Don’t respond. This is the number one rule, says Bryan.
  • Report the suspicious SMS or suspected scam to your bank

Be safe

Being aware of the scams, and keeping your wits about you, will keep you and your hard-earned cash safe from the criminals.

Don't get caught by these SMS scams