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Lying for new wheels: Vehicle asset finance fraud up by 53%, says Sabric

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Fraudulent vehicle application forms and branch-before-deposit attacks are surging.

This is according to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre’s (Sabric) annual crime stats for 2021, released on Monday.

Vehicle asset finance (VAF) fraud applications increased by 53% in 2021, with 20,103 incidents reported, compared to 2020’s 13,095 occurrences.

Fraud detection systems implemented by banks, however, identified and successfully prevented the majority of reported fraudulent applications from being approved last year, Sabric said.

Although the industry recorded an 8% decrease in associated robbery incidents overall in 2021, branch-before-deposit incidents increased by 56%, with financial losses in the same category increasing by 85%.

“This is the result of the implementation of 2020 Covid-19 regulations which limited the number of clients inside branches. As a result, perpetrators targeted bank customers waiting to enter the facility,” the report said.

There were two main modi operandi used by perpetrators to target victims in parking lots close to a bank:

  • A person exiting a vehicle and carrying a bag that appears to hold cash is marked as a potential target and then robbed.
  • An individual is followed to the branch. While the unsuspecting target stands in the queue outside the bank, the perpetrators approach the victim with a firearm and take the intended deposit by force.

“Unfortunately, criminals were able to anticipate customer behaviour, which was to take the shortest route to the branch entrance, and then target the victim while they were still in possession of their cash deposit.”

Card-not-present fraud with a debit card contributed to 55.3% of all card fraud. This type of fraud increased by 31.5% when compared to 2020.

ATM attacks also increased by 11%, with a 17% increase in losses. Incidents where explosives were used increased by 15%, whereas the number of angle grinder incidents decreased by 11%, from 47 in 2020 to 42 incidents in 2021.

Sabric said it is concerned by the rise in the number of ATM attacks, which occurred despite the technology and security measures deployed to make ATMs safer.

Banking on digital platforms (on app, online and over the telephone) now exceeds all other transaction channels in South Africa and is also the safest, said Sabric.

From 2020 to 2021, digital banking fraud incidents decreased by 18% overall. The biggest decline in fraud incidents occurred in mobile banking fraud. However, while the number of incidents declined, there was a 45% increase in the total gross losses in digital banking in the reporting period.

Sabric CEO Nischal Mewalall said: “Digital banking products are far safer than in-person banking and enable people to transact from anywhere safely. But criminals have adjusted their social engineering tactics to leverage your data from social media and data leaks, making their efforts to manipulate customers difficult to spot.”

He cautioned that online shopping can be unsafe because fake websites are being used to defraud consumers or harvest shoppers’ credit card data. In certain instances, scammers have delivered inferior products to create the impression that the website was legitimate.

Mewalall said Sabric has trained more than 900 SA Police Service and National Prosecuting Authority personnel on banking products and related evidence as it works to curtail banking and financial crimes. It has also established task teams, working with the Hawks across provinces to aggressively address prioritised banking crime threats.

Source: TimesLIVE

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