Internet users in banking horror

In the past month, fraudsters have gained access to the online accounts of clients from First National Bank, Standard Bank and Absa, and stolen thousands of Rands.

The fraudsters have found a way of hacking into personal or business accounts and then transferring money to a cellphone prepaid account. All three banks have confirmed that their systems have been breached in the past month and said they were investigating.

In an incident this week, a fraudster hacked into the account of Boaz Chilala, a First National Bank client, and stole R10 500.

First National did not want to say whether the money had been transferred into a cellphone prepaid account. Chris Kotze, spokesperson for FNB Online, said Chilala would be reimbursed.

While the banks say the hacking incidences are “infrequent” and “isolated”, Renee du Toit, who has a business account with Standard Bank, has been hacked into twice in the past six weeks.

Du Toit, who owns a business in Johannesburg, first had her account hacked into on May 16 and again last Friday. On both occasions, money was transferred from her account to various MTN prepaid cellphone accounts.

“The first time it happened, they transferred R180 four times from my account. Standard Bank accused me of giving out my PIN, which I found ridiculous. In the end I had to fight with them to reimburse me,” she said.

Shortly after that incident, Standard Bank gave Du Toit new PINs and made her change passwords.

Despite this, a hacker was able to gain access to her account .”I was at home when I received an SMS saying that I had just logged on to Internet banking. I got the fright of my life and rushed to switch on my computer to see what was going on, but I could not log on to the (banking) website,” she said.

In a panic, Du Toit called Standard Bank’s Internet support centre, where she informed a consultant what was going on.

“When I went into the bank to see my statement, I noticed that R180 had been transferred five times from my account to various MTN prepaid accounts. I was totally shocked and I am no longer confident about Internet banking,” she said.

Christo Vrey, general manager of Absa’s digital channels, said the fraudsters were probably using a key-logging device that tracks a user’s key strokes to determine the password. “They seem to be using the prepaid because it leaves less of a paper trail,” he said.

Eric Larsen, spokesperson for Standard Bank, said that for the past few weeks they had been tracking the working of the syndicates involved. “For anybody to log in to a person’s account they require that person’s PIN and bank card number. Somewhere down the line the clients have compromised their PIN and password, whether willingly or unwillingly.

“While I was speaking to him I could see these people taking money from my account. First R540 was transferred and then another R540. I was screaming and shouting at the guy, saying ‘Please stop this, please stop this’,” she said.

Within minutes R4 860 had been transferred from her account, and more could have been taken had the consultant not closed it down. “It was scary watching that happen. I could not believe that someone had been able to access my account,” she said.

Du Toit’s colleague, Shalima Maharaj, who banks with Absa, fell victim to the same scam the same day.

MTN refused to comment while the spokesperson for Nedbank did not return calls.

–The Star (see useful tips on B….)

July 2006
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