Keeping your finances safe during Covid-19 and beyond

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The Corona virus pandemic has disrupted life as we know it. The family, workspace and even social interactions will take some time to recover even in places where the cases of infection are presently very minimal. The pandemic brought with it a high dependence on online activities as people had to work from home as well as do other things on the internet.

Online transactions and rise in internet fraud

People made more purchases online and in areas that are yet to fully recover from the pandemic most purchases are still done online as number of buyers allowed entry to shops is still being limited due to physical distancing protocols.

Sadly though we saw and still continue to see a spike in cybercrime as fraudsters saw it as an opportunity to get more victims. It has literally being a field day for the more experienced hackers and spammers as the pool of potential victims grew exponentially due to increased online activity occasioned by the lockdown. The infamous exploits of Hushpuppi and his crew is a resounding reminder of the need to be vigilant on the internet as this gang cloned company websites amongst other illicit activities to defraud their unsuspecting victims.

The safety tips

Consequently in order to keep one's hard earned finances safe, I would like to suggest some rules or guidelines for engaging in online or offline transactions and interactions.

  • Do not enter your bank or card details in any website that is not using the https protocol and verified to be secure. Secure websites are usually indicated by a padlock beside the website's url in the address bar. Entering your bank or card details in such websites or insecure mobile applications can easily serve as a route for experienced fraudsters to access the funds in your bank account.

  • If you get prompts from your browser requesting your card details used for payment even if it is on a secured site be stored for future use, please decline. The reason being that if for any reason your PC is compromised , whoever has access to the browser may just decide to go on a shopping spree at your expense. I also advise that for mobile shopping apps do not save your card details to the app especially if the card and cvv2 numbers are requested during payment without otp confirmations for purchases.

  • We all love to use password managing applications whether it be on our mobile phones or personal computers as remembering multiple usernames and passwords can sometimes be challenging. However when it comes to usernames and passwords for our banking platforms it may be ill-advised to use them.

  • Be conversant with the official email address of your bank. There have been cases of persons losing their life savings due to banking fraud via emails. Very importantly your bank or any of its staff will never ask you for information such as your card details, username and passwords via electronic communication channels or otherwise. The moment you receive any communication via email or otherwise requesting such, then you should know that it's a fraudster at work. Banks usually send out security advisories to their customers occasionally, pleas try to create the time to read them.

  • Have an antivirus software which has a good internet protection system installed on your personal computer. The antivirus protection should preferably include email protection and antiphising capability. If possible look for a product with dedicated banking protection features. Such antivirus programmes usually opens a secure window when you have to access your bank's website as an additional layer of protection.

  • In the crypto currency space do not be tempted to patronise doubler sites which request that you send them a certain quantity of crypto currency while expecting to receive double the amount sent after a particular interval of time. The time interval usually touted is short to make the entrapment more enticing.

  • Run, I mean flee at best speeds from schemes which require you to send crypto currency as processing fee in order to claim your funds that you've earned with them .

These are just a few tips to guide us in keeping our finances secured . Before calling it quits , I would like to narrate two real life encounters with fraudsters during the lock down.

True life encounters with fraudsters

I once witnessed a young lady receiving a call from some one claiming to be a bank staff asking her about her account balance and the whereabouts of her ATM card . On being told that the card wasn't immediately available , the so called staff requested that the young lady put a call across when she could access the card. Luckily for her she got good advise not to return the call or ever disclose her card and cvv2 number to anyone as these information could easily be used to debit her account on certain websites.

The second one is personal. I think it was in the second month of the lock down when I got a phone call from someone claiming to be a staff of the bank where I hold an account. He claimed that the bank was doing bank verification number (bvn) update. The moment he mentioned that I knew where he was headed but I played along jokingly asking him when the next upgrade would be scheduled. He thereafter read out my phone number and date of birth accurately requesting that I confirm the information. At that point I decided to call his bluff as I had a pressing issue to address. I bluntly told him to go get a job instead of attempting to defraud people of their hard earned money. His response was that the crime he was engaged in was actually a job and blamed his resorting to crime on the President. At that point I terminated the call. If I wasn't aware of this tactic of theirs as they had made similar attempts in the past, I may have been deceived to provide sensitive account information such as my card or internet banking details which would have resulted in me being defrauded.

On a final note if for any reason you suspect any suspicious activity on your bank account , promptly contact your account officer or your bank's dedicated fraud help line if they have one.

Remember it takes two to tango, for you to be defrauded you have to provide fraudsters with some sensitive information about your account before they can have access to it.

Stay vigilant and stay safe.

Thank you