Don't get (April) fooled: how to steer clear of scams and fake businesses

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Scam prevention tips

Nobody wants to be taken for a fool, and not just on April Fools’ Day! Here are some scam prevention tips and tricks to help you steer clear of those looking to take advantage of you.

Popular scams and scam prevention tips

Let’s be real—we’re all looking for a deal. Few things are more satisfying than tracking down that last pair of size nine sneakers and— ‘OMG, they’re 50% off!’—or checking your spam folder and finding that unexpected promo-code discount for your next pizza delivery. 

So, everyone’s looking for a deal, and unfortunately, scammers are well aware of this! According to the Southern African Prevention Service (SAFPS), fraud impersonation alone increased by 337% in 2021. As online retail continues to grow, it is disconcerting to know that someone, somewhere, is plotting to fool you this April 1st (and beyond). 

Don’t worry, though. Hellopeter to the rescue! We’ve put together a guide with scam prevention tips to help you steer clear of the most common scams and fake businesses.

1. Job scam

According to Skillsportal, South Africa’s current official unemployment rate sits at 35.3%. Scammers understand that many South Africans simply cannot afford to turn down even the possibility of a decent job. So, scammers post a ‘too-good-to-be-true’ opportunity on various job portals. When unsuspecting hopefuls respond, they’re either asked to meet in person and then robbed of their physical belongings or coerced into sending an ‘application fee’, ‘processing fee’ or personal documents used to steal their identity.

How to spot and avoid the jobs scam

  • The company does not have a website 
  • There are no online reviews to show a solid track record
  • The salary advertised does match the work 
  • Their emails do not have company signatures or footers nor contact details
  • There’s an urgency to hire NOW
  • You’re asked for a fee of some sort before offering you the position
  • The interview is conducted in-person and off-site
  • Someone contacted you even though you never applied for the position

2. Remote access scam

Scammers will contact you via phone or email, claiming that they represent your financial services or internet services provider. They convince you that they are following up on suspicious activity on your account or have detected a virus in your network. They will then ask you to download a remote access app such as Teamviewer so that they can fix the problem for you. Once you’ve granted them remote access to your computer, your security and identity are compromised.

How to spot and avoid remote access scams

  • Do not allow remote access to your device
  • Do not share your passwords and login details with anyone.
  • Avoid unsecured or public WiFi
  • Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails
  • Always ensure that you regularly update your anti-virus and firewalls 
  • Contact your service provider directly and query any suspicious or unusual requests allegedly from them

3. Charity scam

Scammers won’t hesitate to tug at the old heartstrings. They will contact you, often after checking your social media for charities or causes you are passionate about and spin you a yarn about doing good. Watch out for these scams, especially during natural disasters, pandemics and other emergencies that actually do need people to step in and help.

How to spot and avoid remote access scams

  • They will often ask for cash donations or other forms of untraceable funds such as gift cards
  • They will often try and pressure you into donating immediately
  • Check their online presence thoroughly and make sure the charity or cause in question is legitimate
  • Call or visit the charity’s main office to verify they are legitimate
  • Ensure you check your billing accounts to ensure you have not ‘donated’ more than agreed upon
  • Don’t let heart-warming or manipulative social media requests and pages fool you 
  • Check for signs or warnings on social media that someone else might’ve fallen in the same trap 

4. Debt collection scam

Scammers are often far more sophisticated than we think, and the debt scam is proof-positive. Scammers will use various ways to get their hands on your financial records. They will then contact you claiming they are either representatives of the court or the business and demand immediate payment or part-payment of outstanding debt. They will also claim they are a debt review service or agency offering to service or write off your debt for a specified payment.

How to spot and avoid the debt collection scam

  • They demand immediate payment to help you
  • The person you’re speaking to bullies and threatens you with legal action
  • Someone repeatedly calls you to try and convince you to accept their offer
  • There seems to be little or no telephone or email etiquette
  • Your phone will ring outside of normal business hours, indicating they may be from another time zone
  • You notice that they have access to private, third-party-held information concerning your financial affairs 
  • The call comes from a private or hidden number or email you from a personal email service provider

5. Investment scam

Scammers will contact you, claiming they have the investment opportunity of a lifetime, offering unrealistic gains in impossibly short amounts of time. They will often prey on your inexperience by using complicated jargon or fake customer testimonials. From WhatsApp community ‘stokvels’ to crypto-currency ‘experts’, there’s no end to the cleverness of potential investment scams.

How to spot and avoid investment scams 

  • You receive multiple, often unsolicited, calls and emails pushing you to invest
  • They need a decision NOW, or you will lose out on the opportunity 
  • The company is registered in countries with lax financial and digital fraud processes
  • Check if the ‘agent’ is not registered with the relevant local professional accrediting body
  • Their online consumer reviews are suspiciously positive, and all claim to have realised incredible profits. As South Africa’s #1 online review platform, we can assure you that very few businesses, especially financial services providers, attract only positive reviews!
  • They refuse to meet you in person or at their company offices

Stay alert, stay safe

Remember that when something seems too good to be true, it often is! Therefore, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

The security of your finances and identity requires you to be proactive. The next time you’re in the market for any financial or digital services or receive a communication from a suspicious-sounding business, take five minutes to hop onto hellopeter.com and research the service providers you are considering. 

Hellopeter-registered businesses are organised by Trust IndexIndustry Ranking and Net Promoter Score for full transparency, ensuring that you have the information and insight needed to steer clear of scams and fake businesses this April Fools’ Day!

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