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Fraud is not new, but it is changing. New technologies have revolutionised the way we socialise and do business, but living in an always-on culture has made us more vulnerable to fraud than ever before.

This International Fraud Awareness Week, we’re asking you to join the fight against financial crime. We spoke to Senior Investigator Carminda Sasman from Sanlam’s Forensic Services division about the little things you can do to protect your personal information and outsmart the modern-day fraudster.

1. Think before you click

We might think we’re pros at spotting the common phishing scam, but the more sophisticated fraudster goes to great lengths to make their work appear legitimate – swopping out poor spelling and suspect URLs for social engineering tactics to get their target to reveal sensitive information or click on a malicious link.

Tip: No one should ever ask you for personal information like your PIN or login details via email, on social media or even over the phone. If you receive a suspicious email or social media link at work, contact your IT support team immediately to verify it.

Beware of the spear phisher

Where a typical phishing scam targets many in the hopes that someone takes the bait, spear-phishing criminals research their victim for a more targeted attack. They might use social media to find an employee who has access to valuable company data then imitate an employee or official to get them to disclose the information.

2. Strengthen your passwords

If a fraudster can’t get to you to divulge your personal information, chances are they’ll search for it themselves. It’s not uncommon for hackers to publish password lists online, so it’s up to you to come up with the most secure (and obscure) password possible.

Tip: Instead of using information that may be public – like your birthday or phone number – use the first letters of a song title or phrase you like, combine upper and lower case letters, and add some numbers and special characters to the mix. Always use different passwords for private or work use.

3. Wise up to business fraud

The reason financial crime like money laundering and payroll schemes go unreported is because employees don’t really know what to look for. “We see money laundering in movies and think we know what it’s about, but it’s so much closer to home,” says Sasman.

Tip: Stay informed. Read up on the different types of business fraud and look out for the warning signs from clients and fellow employees, such as reluctance to provide information, incomplete or inconsistent information, and suspicious money transfers.

4. Be careful of what you share

We may not think twice about what we share when setting up a social media profile, but even the basics like your full name, birthday and relationship status can be used to steal or misappropriate your identify to commit financial crime. “Fraudsters are past the days of dumpster diving,” explains Sasman. “They don’t have to go to that effort anymore – it’s all out there for them.”

Tip: Google yourself to see if there’s anything personal online that may make you a target and keep updating and using the security and privacy tools made available on your social networking platforms and mobile apps. “If you’re not going to protect your own data – no one else is going to.”

5. Protect your devices

Smartphones and tablets mean we can access the internet from just about anywhere, letting us socialise, shop and make payments with a few swipes. But the ease of access we experience benefits the modern-day fraudster too.

Tip: Reduce the risk of your data being copied or stolen by limiting sensitive browsing like banking or shopping to a device that belongs to you on a network you trust. Update your security apps and always read the permissions properly when downloading a new app. “There are various security features that come with our phones that we don’t use, and people take advantage of that.”

6. Be proactive. Report it.

We all have the right to live and work in a fraud-free environment. International Fraud Awareness Week is the perfect time to take a stand against financial crime and this starts with being proactive.

Tip: If you suspect someone is carrying out fraud against you, your company or someone else, you can bring this to our attention by completing an online form or emailing All reports are confidential and sent directly to Forensic Services. If you’d prefer to make an anonymous report, you can use the Sanlam Fraud and Ethics hotline on 0800 200 575 or +27 12 543 5324 for calls outside South Africa.

The reality is that anyone who has a job, uses the internet or puts their finances in someone else’s hands is vulnerable to fraud. In an age where we’re always connected, it’s up to us to start discussions amongst our friends and co-workers so we can work together to fight financial crime.

Share this article with the hashtag #FraudWeek to spread awareness this Fraud Awareness Week.



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