Beware of phone call scams

IN today's digital age, scammers have found new and inventive ways to deceive people and steal their hard-earned money.

IN today's digital age, scammers have found new and inventive ways to deceive people and steal their hard-earned money.

Zimbabwe is no exception to this growing menace, as an increasing number of individuals are falling victim to phone call scams.

These scammers employ sophisticated techniques, targeting both the tech-savvy and the unsuspecting.

It is crucial for everyone to remain vigilant, recognise the signs of these scams, and take appropriate measures to protect themselves.

I would like to shed light on the various phone call scams prevalent in Zimbabwe, provide insights into identifying them, and offer tips to safeguard against falling prey to these fraudulent schemes.

The pervasive threat of text scams

The realm of text messaging has become a favoured avenue for fraudsters to carry out their cons.Scammers are becoming more adept at using technology to their advantage, employing tactics like "spoofing" to make their messages appear genuine.

Through various platforms such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and others, scammers attempt to deceive and defraud unsuspecting individuals.

 Identifying text scams

While scammers are becoming increasingly cunning, there are still signs that can help individuals identify potential text scams. These include:

Unexpected messages: If you receive a text message from a bank, delivery service, or any other entity urging you to provide personal information or call a specific number regarding an unfamiliar service, it is likely a scam. Verify the legitimacy of the message by contacting the organisation directly using their official contact details.

 Typos and grammar mistakes: Professional organisations rarely make spelling or grammar errors in their communications. If a text message appears suspicious, scrutinise it for typos, incorrect capitalisation, or grammatical errors, as these can be indicators of fraudulent intent.

Suspicious links: Clicking on links provided in scam messages can lead to malware infections or direct you to fake websites designed to steal personal and financial information. Always independently verify the legitimacy of a message by contacting the organisation through official channels.

Requests for personal information: Legitimate financial organisations, such as banks, never request personal information through text messages. Treat any text asking for your address, PIN number, or banking details with utmost suspicion.

 Avoid replying to scam messages: Replying to scam messages confirms to scammers that your phone number is active, potentially leading to further scam attempts. Instead, block the number, take a screenshot of the message as evidence, delete it, and promptly report it to your service provider, mobile phone network, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, or all relevant authorities.

Reporting scams

Reporting scam messages is crucial for organisations to track the types of messages fraudsters are sending out. Forward the scam message directly to your service provider, mobile phone network, bank, and the ZRP to aid in their efforts to combat fraudulent activities effectively.

 Prominent types of scam texts

Scammers employ various guises to deceive individuals into parting with their money.

Here are some recent scam text examples reported in Zimbabwe:

 Bank impersonation: Scammers often masquerade as major banks, sending texts that claim unauthorised payments, device access, or new payees added to your account. They typically request you to click a link to confirm the action. Remember, banks never ask for personal information, request transfers, or ask you to download apps through text messages.

Delivery scam: A prevalent scam involves receiving a text from courier companies like DHL, or UPS, stating that a package is awaiting delivery, but a small payment is required. Individuals are directed to make a mobile money payment or click a link to make the payment. Beware of providing sensitive information or transferring money without verifying the legitimacy of the text. Banks will never ask you to transfer money into another account to keep it safe.

FluBot malware scam: Scammers may request you to download a fraudulent app instead of redirecting you to a website. This app infects Android devices with malware, enabling scammers to gain unauthorised access to personal information. Always exercise caution when receiving delivery notifications and avoid installing apps from unofficial sources.

Scammers have extended their reach beyond text messages and are now utilising phone calls to deceive individuals and manipulate them into giving up their savings.

Recent reports highlight the following phone call scams in Zimbabwe:

Zimra Investigation Scam: Phone calls claim  to be from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), alleging an investigation into fraud. The caller may prompt you to make an immediate payment for the case to be cleared. Remember, Zimra or the police will never notify you about investigations or arrest warrants via a calls. Hang up and contact the organisation directly to verify the call's authenticity.

Protecting   yourself   against    scams

To safeguard yourself against phone call scams, consider the following precautions:

Be sceptical: Treat unsolicited phone calls with caution, especially those requesting personal information, payments, or urgent action. Legitimate organisations will not pressure you into immediate decisions or disclose sensitive details over the phone.

Verify the caller: If you receive a call from a purported organisation or authority, independently verify their identity by contacting them directly using official contact details. Do not rely on contact information provided during the call, as scammers can spoof caller IDs.

Do not share personal information: Avoid divulging personal, financial, or sensitive information over the phone, unless you have initiated the call and are certain of the recipient's authenticity.

Use call blocking: Utilise call-blocking features provided by your smartphone or service provider or install call-blocking apps to filter out potential scam calls. If you receive scam calls repeatedly from the same number, report it to your service provider and the relevant authorities.

Educate yourself: Stay updated on the latest scam techniques and familiarise yourself with common red flags. Share this knowledge with friends, family, and colleagues to create awareness and prevent others from falling victim to scams.

Phone call scams continue to pose a significant threat to individuals in Zimbabwe.

Scammers adapt their strategies to exploit the vulnerabilities of unsuspecting victims, making it crucial for everyone to remain vigilant.

By recognising the signs of scams and adopting protective measures, individuals can safeguard themselves against these fraudulent schemes.

Remember to report any suspicious text messages or phone calls to relevant authorities to aid in their efforts to combat scams effectively and protect the community as a whole.

  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd. He is the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers.

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