The increasing risk of cyber fraud takes centre stage at the SAFPS Fraud Summit

The South African fraud landscape has steadily increased over the past five years, making this one of the top risks South Africans face daily.

The South African fraud landscape has steadily increased over the past five years, making this one of the top risks South Africans face daily. Evidence of this risk is clear for all to see with the recent hack of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), which are stark reminders of the risk landscape we face.

“South Africans are becoming increasingly easy targets for fraudsters and scammers who are highly motivated to find their next victim. This is why the Fraud Summit is important because it highlights the current fraud landscape – which includes current modus operandi – as well as key interventions that can be put in place to combat fraud,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, CEO of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS).

A major target

A key theme at every Fraud Summit is contextualising the daily fraud landscape that South Africans face. According to the 2021 Interpol African Cyberthreat Assessment Report, South Africa is the most attacked country in Africa and is the third most attacked country in the world. The report delves into the inner workings of these gangs, detailing how cybercriminals are not part-time scammers but are instead part of well-run, well-funded syndicates that are highly motivated to turn people into victims.

“The recent CIPC hack serves as a chilling example of the sophistication of cybercriminals. They infiltrated the CIPC network as early as 2021, biding their time until April 2024 to execute their scam. This indicates that we are not up against ordinary criminals but a highly advanced and patient adversary,” says Van Schalkwyk.

According to media reports, some of the information stolen by the CIPC hackers includes passwords, banking details and ID numbers, which could be used in future identity fraud. Garth de Klerk, CEO of the Insurance Crime Bureau, will address this issue on the first day of the conference.

A major highlight on the first day of the conference will be a panel discussion focusing on Self-Sovereign Identity. The panel will feature insights from Shaun Strydom, who is the Founder, Executive Head, & Identity Futurologist at Contactable; Johan Moolman, who is the Group CEO of Secure Citizen; Martin Grunewald, who is the Chief Executive of Global Growth at Secure Citizen, and Lohan Spies, who is the CEO DIDX.

Presenting solutions

As the custodian of fraud in Southern Africa, Van Schalkwyk points out that the SAFPS is at the forefront of the battle against fraud. These measures will be discussed in a banking panel discussion on the second day of the Fraud Summit, which will include insights from Kevin Hogan, Head of Fraud Risk at Investec, Louis Hennings, Head of Integrated Financial Crime Risk Management at Nedbank, and Ulrich Janse Van Rensburg, Chief Fraud Strategist of the Absa Group.

“In the recently published SAFPS Fraud Statistics, we highlight that banking fraud is still very prevalent and growing in South Africa. We need to put measures in place to address this,” says Van Schalkwyk, adding that money muling is becoming increasingly prevalent.

One of the most common forms of money muling is when a victim is approached by someone claiming that they need to send money to a family member in another country and they need a bank account to perform this transaction.

Many people want to help and willingly let these fraudsters use their bank accounts. While this may seem an innocent crime, research from Cifas in the UK points out that money-muling funds activities such as drug and human trafficking and terrorist activities.

“The repercussions of being a money mule are significant. The guilty party will be listed with the SAFPS, and the result is that the individual could struggle to get access to finance for ten years. It is one of the biggest issues the SAFPS faces, and the public needs to know about the seriousness of this crime. This will all be discussed at the Summitt,” says Van Schalkwyk.

Easy pickings

While the South African economy comprises some of the biggest companies on the continent, most companies in South Africa are small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Regarding cyber-security, the reality is that these companies cannot compete with the financial capabilities of their larger counterparts.

A report by Sage points out that SMBs are becoming easy targets for these criminals as they do not have the money to invest in sophisticated cyber protection. The report points out that the constantly evolving threat landscape keeps SMBs at night. The biggest challenge for over half (51%) is keeping on top of new threats, followed by making sure employees know what’s expected of them (45%), educating staff about cyber security (44%), and cost (43%).

This risk will be addressed in a presentation on the second day of the conference titled The Evolution of Cyber Crime, which will be presented by Michael K Burgin, who is the Country Attache/Resident Agent in Charge of the US Secret Service in South Africa.

Additional support

While the fraud landscape in South Africa is increasing, Van Schalkwyk points out that there is support for victims of fraud, which will be highlighted throughout the conference.

“The SAFPS offers fraud victims support in the form of Protective Registration and Victim Fraud Registration, which are products that are becoming increasingly popular. Further, fraud victims can turn to Yima, which is a valuable online platform that offers tools and platforms that the public can use to educate themselves on scams as well as report scams to relevant authorities through a dedicated Hotline,” says Van Schalkwyk, who adds that the SAFPS will continue supporting victims of fraud.