When it comes to contacting the masses, social media is a useful tool.
Not only are they free and freely accessible – they are, for the most part, unregulated.
This is where scammers from every country in the world will hunt for potential victims.
Like cold calling, it is a numbers game.
Eventually, a naïve person will respond and the fraudster has found a target.
Infinite, anonymous reach
Social platforms extend beyond Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; as evidenced by South Africa’s Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) warning the public not to deal with individuals who contact them via messaging app WhatsApp.
In an update on 25 June, the watchdog issued a warning about individuals claiming to be affiliated with advisory firm Allan Gray, offering short-term investments to members of the public that promise 100% returns.
Allan Gray has confirmed that the WhatsApp profiles and those making the “offer” are in no way affiliated with the company.
The FSCA said, “the individuals using WhatsApp profiles are operating without authorisation and fraudulently using Allan Gray’s name to solicit funds”.
What to do?
The usual advice from regulators is to check authorised sources to verify that the company is real and appropriately licensed.
But what happens when a real company is being used in a scam?
Checking the FSCA website will reveal that Allan Gray is an authorised company that offers investment services.
It’s very easy for people in the finance industry to recognise that Allan Gray would never approach potential clients via WhatsApp.
Let alone offer 100% returns in the current economic environment (or, let’s face it, ever).
But it’s all too easy to forget that there are significant parts of the population who have very little experience of financial services.
What would be a red flag to someone working in the industry, may not even raise an eyebrow of someone who has only ever had a bank account.
Education is key.
But fraudsters are canny and slippery – it is in their best interests to remain a step or two ahead of regulation and legislation.
Which really makes ongoing, evolving and repetitive messaging about how financial services actually works the strongest weapon in the arsenal when it comes to defeating online fraud.