Banking Apps Are At The Centre Of South Africa’s Worrisome Abduction Surge

By  |  November 7, 2023

In South Africa, a disturbing crime trend has emerged, involving the kidnapping of individuals who are then coerced, often under the threat of violence, into making unauthorized transfers from their banking apps. Experts have noted a rise in incidents where victims, including business owners, are targeted by criminal syndicates. These victims are forced to perform various tasks, such as making payments into foreign bank accounts or conducting online purchases and ATM withdrawals using their accounts. The criminals exploit the victims’ fear and intimidation, rendering traditional security features like Pins, biometric authentication, and facial recognition ineffective.

The “banking app kidnappings,” as reported by TechCentral, have posed a significant challenge for law enforcement, as criminals employ various tactics to evade detection. In some cases, the funds are moved outside the country, making it nearly impossible to trace. The perpetrators often change their locations, making it difficult for authorities to apprehend them. This escalation in criminal activities has prompted financial institutions and security experts across South Africa’s leading banks to alert the public about the risks and advise on preventive measures.

Victims are left in a helpless situation during these incidents, leading some individuals to consider deleting their banking apps from their devices. However, this drastic measure complicates day-to-day transactions and financial management. Some experts recommend a middle-ground approach, where individuals keep only a minimal amount of funds in their transactional accounts, transferring the rest to accounts with longer notice periods. This strategy allows victims to mitigate potential losses, but it is not a foolproof solution.

High-risk individuals, including children, those living alone, business owners, high-income individuals, and newcomers to South Africa, are often targeted. Criminals focus on victims who are more likely to have sophisticated account profiles and substantial balances, making them lucrative targets. Despite increased vigilance, detecting and stopping these shakedowns in progress remains challenging. Prevention becomes crucial, urging customers to educate themselves about criminals’ tactics and take necessary precautions.

During these terrifying situations, victims are advised to prioritize their safety, cooperate with the assailants, remain calm, memorize details for later identification, avoid provoking the kidnappers, comply with their demands, and seek help from authorities and their banks once the ordeal is over.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has been monitoring banking-related criminal activities. While other mobile banking crimes are declining, banking app fraud cases have increased by 36%, indicating a shift in criminal methods. Criminals are moving away from previously popular tactics like SIM swaps, which have become less effective. As a result, banking app kidnappings are becoming more prevalent, necessitating heightened awareness and preventive measures to safeguard individuals from falling victim to these crimes.

Featured Image Credits: WeLiveSecurity

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