Technology

Fight back against debit order scams

Published on Monday, February 02, 2015 6:01:00 PM

The chief executive of one of South Africa’s leading debit order and EFT payment solutions companies has urged South Africans to “fight back” against the scourge of debit order fraud ravaging the country.


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DigiCash CEO Paul Brown is concerned that consumers are easily falling victim to shady call centre agents in scams similar to those exposed in Durban last year. The scam occurs when unauthorised debit orders are issued by sinister elements working at companies that make use of debit order service providers. 

 

The amounts, usually around R100 or less, are not noticed by consumers initially, but over the course of several months amount to much larger sums. “Unscrupulous individuals within some companies are looking to fleece consumers in this way to boost their sales figures and receive the appropriate commission. Because people are not paying attention, the exploitation becomes rife,” Brown said.

 

However, Brown says the public should also be aware that claiming a refund is a simple process, provided customers liaise with the relevant identity bureaus. “Once you have identified the bureau that facilitated the transaction by looking at your bank statement, you can contact them and receive the details of the company that requested your account to be debited.


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DigiCash CEO Paul Brown (pictured) recommends fighting back against debit order scamsters

“At DigiCash, if we receive a call like this, we immediately prevent any further debits being run against this account and investigate the company at the source of the complaint.”

 

Particularly with the proliferation of email and smartphone communication, deceitful operators are constantly exploring new ways to target consumers. While phishing scams are nothing new, consumers should be aware that they do not always depend on someone clicking on a malware-infected link. Bogus pages that pop up will ask for passwords and user information, and that means that no system, be it computer or mobile device, is immune to their wiles.

 

In addition, one of the newer phishing scams involves people being lured into clicking on a link in an email that appears to come from a bank. Because the email appears to be authentic, complete with correct letterhead and text placement, consumers can easily part with their personal information. Even the presence of a contact phone number should be viewed with skepticism, as a corrupt operator will have no qualms about posing as someone who is genuinely there to assist. 

 

Brown recommends consumers heed the following: 

  • Be careful with your account number, only give it out to respected organisations.
  • Avoid verbal agreements (agreeing to something over the phone). While this will still constitute a legal agreement, when you sign something you at least have a chance to comb over the “fine print”.
  • Pay attention to your electronic bank statement. If there is a scammer who is debiting your account, rather find it out sooner than later.
  • Bear in mind that you can dispute transactions on your bank statement several months after it has been debited from your account.
  • Sign up to receive SMS notifications whenever your bank account is debited, though some banks don’t notify you if a transaction is lower than R100 (something that some scamsters are aware of).
  • Remember that a debiting bureau only facilitates transactions. If you disagree with a transaction, the debiting bureau will help you get in touch with the merchant who debited your account.

 

“Every transaction needs a valid mandate proving that the source company can in fact debit your account. Even though the source of a lot of these problems are from one or two charlatans within these companies, if our merchants ever fail to produce a mandate they are heavily fined, and repeat offences (i.e. they don’t properly deal with the unscrupulous individuals at their company) result in the company being kicked off our system, and even reported to the police.”

 

Many such companies in South Africa have already been blacklisted on account of the high rejection rate of payment orders by banks in cases where clients had disputed the deductions. Brown says consumer vigilance is key. “If you see something suspicious in your account, call the identity bureau and quote your reference number. This will enable your complaint to be handled promptly so that you can receive a refund.”

 

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