Debit order fraud - how to spot it, avoid it, protect yourself

If you have a job and are earning a salary, you will probably have debit orders that come off your bank account each month. This could be to pay for bond/rent, your car instalment, a loan, credit card, cellphone contract etc. Not only do debit orders offer convenience, they also ensure that your bills are paid on time. However, criminals are finding smart ways to corrupt this process in order to steal from South Africans. This has resulted in the rise of debit order fraud – which has left many South Africans frustrated and vulnerable. How does it happen and how can you prevent it? We take you through debit order fraud tactics and give you tips to prevent it in this blog.

Defining debit order fraud

Debit order fraud is a type of scam that occurs when debit orders come off your bank account each month without you being aware, or having given consent through a signed contract. In South Africa, these scams are known as R99 scams where varying amounts of less than R100 will be debited from your account by an unknown recipient.

When criminals get access to your personal information – ID number, bank account information, or even existing debit order accounts – they can open credit accounts in your name, using your bank details. In other instances, criminals will be in collusion with employees from a bank, who will illegally share customer information with them. Criminals will then use this information to process debit orders. They will usually debit your bank account once. However, if you don’t notice and stop it, they often process this debit order for many more months – unless you discover it and put a stop to the debit orders.

How to spot debit order fraud

The quickest and most effective way to spot debit order fraud is to go through your bank statements regularly. Scrutinise every detail of your bank statement, looking at all your debit orders to identity which you are aware of and which ones aren’t familiar to you. 

How can debit order fraud be prevented?

The South African Payments Association has implemented a new debit order system called DebiCheck. This will allow South Africans to authorise every new debit order before it goes off on their bank accounts. This can be done online through internet banking, through the ATM machines, or through cellphone banking. Learn more about DebiCheck here

While African Bank has safety and security systems in place to help keep your money safe and protected against unauthorised debit orders, there are some steps that you can take to reduce your own risk of becoming a victim of debit order fraud. These are some of the steps you can take:

  1. Keep a list of all your debit orders – It's important to know how many debit orders go off on your account every month, and who is making those debits. This will make it easier to notice when a debit order comes from an unknown creditor.
  2. Regularly go through your bank statements – This is a tested way to spot, monitor and prevent unwanted debit orders.
  3. Activate bank alerts – If you have a smartphone or the African Bank App, you will be notified whenever there’s a transaction on your bank account. This includes each debit order and gives you real-time information when money leaves your bank account.
  4. Be alert – Don't share your personal information with anyone. That includes your debit order information. If you receive a call from a "bank", don't share any details until you have confirmed that you are speaking to the legitimate company.
  5. If you spot it, report it – If you spot a suspicious or unknown debit order coming off your account, immediately report it with your bank and see if the debit order can be reversed. You can then also put a stop to any other debit orders coming from the same source.

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