12 Red Flags You Should Watch Out For To Avoid Being Conned

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A fraudster scamming somebody of their money. Image from https://techcrunch.com/2014/02/02/missed-call-scam/

With the rise in digital transformation and adaptation, more people are using online services for various purposes. This includes banking, making payments, carrying out transactions and the most basic of all communication. While this might sound great, the opportunity presents some unique challenges, the main one being fraud.

Case in point, not too long ago, when online contests, giveaways and draws were the norm of the day, it was not very hard to fall for a prize scam. I can attest to this because before I came to learn about fraud schemes, I had picked up quite a number of unsuccessful calls. Tell me if you can relate.

Someone calls you, you pick up. They claim to be from a particular convenient organisation and that they need to verify if you are the legit winner of a certain competition. You may or may not have entered the competition, but before you could say anything, the caller tells you the amount you have won. They proceed to say that you only need to provide a few details before you can get your prize. So you play along.

In my experience, the caller claimed to be calling from a certain bank and that they needed me to confirm my bank account number. Being an obedient customer, I went ahead and gave out my account number. He then asked the last time I had carried out a transaction and what was the amount. That too, I answered. He didn’t want to take much of my time and so he asked the final question.

“Your account seems to be having some issues which could get it suspended. Could you provide us with your PIN so we can sort the problem for you?” I had nothing to lose and my account was penniless. But just before I could give out my PIN something else came to mind. So I responded accordingly.

“I can’t remember the PIN because my account is new. Can you call back later after I find it?” Just then my mother walked in. So I hung up and made the announcement that she too couldn’t wait to hear.

Let’s just say my mother almost called my school to get a refund on the money spent on my fees. Yet that’s not how the conversation ended. Neither is it the reason I laugh when I recall that day. It is the fact that the guy called back – although we couldn’t tell he was the one since he used a different number. When he still failed to get my PIN he became frustrated then went ahead and hurled insults my way.

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From unknown numbers asking you to send money to stranger’s phone number to texts and callers asking to fix your bank account which has issues….the tricks are endless. However, there are a couple of measures you should implement to avoid being conned. But first, let’s review the red flags you should watch out for to avoid falling prey to conmen and fraudsters.

  1. Texts from Unknown numbers

It is not once or twice that you have received texts about soft loans, or you are provided a code to dial for more information on the same. Other times its texts from numbers that resemble your service provider, they are never identical as a digit or two is tweaked. Below is an example;

Message; Your line has been deactivated due to wrong registration of account. For more information contact/sms (0784000…)within 2hrs for Activation Code. From your Bank.

It is easy to fall for such messages especially if you’re not aware of all the crucial details pertaining to your service provider. That is why it’s important to be well informed when it comes to matters regarding your service provider. This includes details on their official number, which number to call if you’re experiencing any issues with your account and how to report fraudster cases.

To report smishing cases, (SMS scamming), forward the message and the number to 333.

  1. Links on messages

Scamming through texts can also take the shape of suspicious links attached to the messages you receive. Such messages may claim that you need to click the link so you can update your bank information or so.

However, it is best not to click on such links. If the message is not from your service provider, do not engage. The best thing is to forward it to 333 to prevent future attempts.

  1. Bank offers

When it’s not messages about fixing your account, sometimes you get bank offers on loans or big sums that have already been pre-approved by the bank in question. The issue is that you need to pay a mandatory fee first before the money can be deposited in your account.

Though unlikely, it is not uncommon for people to fall for such tricks. Just remember that when a deal is too good, it is. Always remember to check the ID from where the message is being sent. Legit companies use one ID when sending messages to their customers, not different personal numbers, to avoid cases of fraud through impersonation, and SMS scamming.

  1. Easy online opportunities

The internet is a rich place with so much information and opportunities. Some might be true while others might be a set up to getting conned. If you come across opportunities that ask you to text your number, be wary. Neither should you post your personal contacts on online platforms. If you would like to get in touch with a company, direct mail (DM) them instead of leaving your number or email address on their timeline. That way, you don’t risk falling victim to phishing scams or spams.

Scam. Image from https://www.burnabynow.com/news/rcmp-woman-scammed-for-well-into-six-figures-1.24038967
  1. Untrusted websites

In a world where online shopping is almost becoming part of our lifestyle, it is best to take a few precautions before keying in your account details on shopping websites. Completing a check out process on untrusted websites exposes your bank account details, personal details such as name and address, therefore putting you at risk of identity theft and fraud.

Dead giveaways that a shopping site is fake includes; terrible design and usability, strange URLs like fenti-at-amazing-price.com, sloppy language, ridiculously low prices and strange contact details.

Secure sites have a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). This you can tell by checking if they have a lock at the address bar and if they start with https:// as opposed to HTTP.

  1. Giving out your credit/ debit card

If you happen to use your bank card to pay bills at a physical location, do not let it out of your sight. The best thing to do is to swipe the card yourself as opposed to giving it out for someone else to do it for you. You may ask why, but unfortunately, if someone had your card number and CVS (the 3-digit number behind your card) they could get away with using your credit card to purchase things online. This is also why you should look at the safety and payment method of the sites you shop from to ensure that you are not exposed to credit card fraud or identity theft. More so if you are not shopping from popular safe sites like Amazon or eBay.

  1. Not having a strong PIN

Often what comes to mind when we’re required to set a PIN, is to use our birth dates or other personal data like an ID number since it’s easy to remember. However, just like you wouldn’t lock your house and leave the key where it can be accessed by anyone, so should you protect your digital property with the same vigilance.

To secure your digital property from invasion of privacy, identity theft or fraud, use a PIN that is not easy to guess. Likewise, keep it a secret and do not share it with anyone, not even the bank itself. Neither should you save your PIN on your phone or laptop. Doing so puts you at risk of fraud if ever your phone is lost or it becomes infected with malware.

  1. Not using a lock screen or biometric authentication

It is one thing to have a simple PIN but it is another to leave your phone unlocked. When you are using mobile banking apps, it is best to add a lock code, a password or fingerprint to keep your phone inaccessible. Doing so also keeps your banking app more secure in the case you lose your phone or leave it unattended.

Besides, aside from using a PIN, banking apps like Equity’s Eazzy Banking app allow you to log in using a fingerprint if your device supports biometric authentication. A One Time Pin (OTP) is also sent via SMS to ensure that your account stays secured whenever you are using online bank channel like EazzyNet.

Therefore, just like you shouldn’t share your PIN code with anyone, ensure that you don’t share the OTP with anyone.

  1. Outdated apps

If you are one to stay too long without updating your apps, you should reconsider. Updating your apps, particularly mobile banking apps ensures that you have the latest version, which is usually more fast, efficient and without bugs like the previous versions.

It is also advisable that you upgrade your banking apps from official stores like Google Play Store or Apple store. This is to avoid malware or facilitating access to sensitive information.

  1. Enabled Bluetooth and public WIFI

If your Bluetooth is enabled or your smartphone/PC is connected to a public WIFI ensure that you turn it off before accessing your mobile banking App or an online banking channel like EazzyNet. Otherwise, you risk data theft, malware and other malicious attacks that could expose you to fraud. If you are using a private WIFI network, make sure it is secure by the WPA2 system.

8 ways of keeping safe while using public Wi-Fi hotspots

  1. Money reversals

It is great to take matters into your own hands and reverse someone’s money out of goodwill but it’s always better to take a moment before you proceed. Fraudsters are good manipulators and they are prone to taking advantage of any situation. If someone calls you to have their money reversed ask them to call the provider to get it done. After all, since we are well versed with the common Tuma pesa kwa hii number ile ingine haifanyi, someone might use another tactic to get you to do their bidding.

Nevertheless, nowadays most network providers have incorporated a feature that lets you reconfirm a transaction before authorising it. For instance nowadays just before finalising a transaction, most networks have a prompt so you can confirm if you would like to proceed or cancel the transaction. On the other hand, if you have a line like Equitel, you will notice that to send you type 1 and to cancel you type 2.

  1. A caller asking for your account details

At the first encounter of a fraud case, it is common to deduce that a couple of well thought of tricks were used. Nevertheless, it’s wise to remember that the devil is always in the detail. For example; receiving a call from an unknown number where the caller proceeds to ask for your account details, should be a red flag. As many service providers always advise, you should never reveal sensitive details, including your account number, PIN or OTP (one time pin) to anyone.

Better yet, if the call received doesn’t come from your service provider, it is better not to engage. But how do you know if the caller is from your service provider? The surest way is to know your service provider.

Every network has an official designated number by which they call their customers. The staff calling from this number would never ask for your PIN or Account number, hence you should never give these details out. Equity for instance has introduced a designated number through which they will be contacting their customers. The bank’s official number is, 0763 000 000 and if you need to call them back, dial the same number- 0763 000 000 or 0763 063 000 or use 100 if using an Equitel Line.

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