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By Douglas Gibson[i]

Have you been scammed? More and more people, especially old people, are being scammed by criminals. When are the criminals apprehended, tried and convicted?

In August last year, while away in the Drakensberg, I received an sms from Standard Bank, informing me that an amount of R3000.00 had been paid from my credit card to Uber Eats. I had neither paid nor authorised it. My personal banker and Standard acted swiftly. The amount was reversed, my card was stopped. I was lucky.

Others have been less fortunate. A neighbour was robbed of R 90,000.00 after incautiously giving sensitive details to a phone scammer.

Another friend’s wife lost R40000.00. Called by someone saying he was from her bank, he asked if she had authorised a big withdrawal. When told that she did not, he said the Bank’s fraud section needed to investigate immediately. He had a great deal of information about her, including her ID number and other personal details. He needed certain other information and asked when her credit card expired. He then asked for the three number code appearing at the back of the card. The lady trusted him and gave him the details. He promised to revert to with news about the scam and assured her the card would be stopped immediately. Within minutes, R40,000.00 was withdrawn from her account. Because she had given the details to the criminal, the bank declined to refund her.

I recently was alerted by my bank to debits they considered to be suspicious, as indeed they were. Immediate action was taken and I suffered no loss.

Another personal experience in the past few weeks was when MTN advised me that my credit limit had been increased by R5000.00. I made contact straight away and was told that my account had three new telephone numbers added at their Fourways branch and new sim cards had been issued.  How this could happen? What about producing ID? What about RICA, requiring the submission of a current municipal bill, a cell phone or retail account, and proof of residence? To me, this was an inside job. I had to submit an affidavit and the new numbers were blocked, so I suffered no damage, but I heard of several others who had debits paid out to criminals.

On Friday, I was telephoned by a woman claiming she represented Standard Bank. She enquired if I had authorised debits for a gambling company and for Takealot. I had not. She quoted many of my personal details and then asked when my card expired. I declined to give it to her, and ended the call. She phoned back and said if I did not co-operate, I would have to go to a branch which would take seven or eight months to resolve the problem before giving me a new card. I terminated the call and was subsequently advised by the bank fraud section that the call had been an attempted scam.

Why is this scamming so rife? Why are the banks, MTN, all appropriate others and the SAP not co-operating at the highest level in solving some of these crimes? You don’t have to be too clever to trace telephone numbers and the users. The scams will increase if there are no consequences and if people are so trusting of scammers who phone them. It is time for the SAPS and all stakeholders to form a co-operative committee to stop the scammers in their tracks. Meanwhile, be warned.

[i] Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His email address is

Douglas Gibson
Douglas Gibson
A former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson is a keynote speaker and writer.

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