Nobuhle was retrenched from her job as an administrator in a large company. She was desperate for a new job, but nobody seemed to be hiring. For years, she’d been seeing “Work from home” ads in newspapers and on the internet that required exactly her skill set, but she wasn’t sure about working in isolation. Now that she had run out of options, she reckoned she didn’t have anything to lose.
She made contact with the advertiser and was sent an email explaining that the job required someone who could write emails, capture data and was self-supervising. She was guaranteed a flood of work as soon as she’d paid the “training fee” of R170. Nobuhle paid the money and received an email with the training pack attached.
When she opened the attachment, she found a detailed explanation of how to post exactly the kind of job ads that she had responded to and extract money from applicants who responded to the ad. Essentially, she had been hoodwinked by a “work from home” pyramid scheme.
From scammers claiming to have a massive payout just waiting for you to phishing scams that request your details over email or fake employment hoaxes that require a sign-up fee, it’s clear that the world is full of unscrupulous individuals who are doing their best to part you from your money. By keeping your wits about you, you can fight back against these fraudsters.
Common South African scams
- Phishing – when someone pretends to be from your bank or other financial institution and gets you to reveal your private banking information so that they can access your account.
- 419 Scamming – when a person sends you an email claiming that they have access to a large amount of money, but they need your help withdrawing it. All you have to do is send them a little money so that they can open an account in your name/buy an airline ticket/register your company. You’ll never see your money again, and there never were any millions.
- Fake job scams – no employer will ask you to pay money upfront for a job. These scams are unfortunately rife in South Africa.
- Pyramid schemes – these encourage you to put money into an investment or a product that will earn you an income. You are then also encouraged to sell the same investment or product to others. When the scheme has enough members investing, the originators simply vanish overnight.
- The computer scam – someone phones you pretending to be from Microsoft or another similar company and asks for your passwords to correct something on your computer. They then either tell you that you need security software and ask you for your credit card details or encourage you to download software that they then use to pick up your banking details.
How to recognise a scamHere are some of the indicators that a “special offer”, “employment opportunity” or “financial windfall” are just too good to be true:
- The number one indicator that an offer is too good to be true is that it offers unrealistic returns. The top performing investment funds offer a return of less than 30% per year. This means that if you’ve invested R1 000 at the beginning of the year, by the end of the year, you’d have R1 300. Any “investment company” offering a better return than that is a hoax. If your friends have done it and had a good return, they are being groomed to invest larger amounts of money before the investment company closes shop overnight.
- Any offer – whether its employment or investment or a special deal – that requires you to put in money upfront is a hoax.
- Any unsolicited request for private information – whether it comes in an email or on the phone is a hoax. If the request seems legitimate, check the company’s phone number by searching on the internet (not on the site that the email or phone caller directs you to) and phoning them directly to verify.
- Although pressure is a common sales tactic, it is also often used by hoaxers to get you to commit before you’ve had a chance to think. If someone is putting you under pressure to pay money or reveal information, immediately cut short the conversation and take the time to think and research.
Protect yourselfThe one good thing about scams and hoaxes is that someone else has almost always been duped before you. This means that most scams are listed on the internet, and you can easily identify them by doing a search for the key words in the scam, for instance, “job offer, work from home”.
Never reveal personal information or provide cash upfront and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.