How to fight the growing risk of cyber fraud in South Africa

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The Internet has become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. Websites, mobile apps, online shopping and social media are just some of what makes the Internet of Things such an important part of our modern world.

Statistics South Africa reported that about two-thirds of all South African households have one (or more) members of that home with internet access. The benefits of creating more accessible and affordable internet options are, undoubtedly, transformative for the country and our people, as a whole.

Unfortunately, better internet access comes with an increased risk of cyber security threats and online scams. With the growing use of the Internet in South Africa, it’s critical to educate new (and experienced) internet users about cyber fraud risks and useful anti-fraud practices.

ZA Central Registry (ZACR) is a non-profit company that manages second-level domain names which support local businesses and organisations websites. They, currently, administer over 1.25 million ZA domains, such as co.za, org.za, net.za, web.za, as well as other geographic domain names (.africa, .capetown, .durban and .joburg).

ZACR are true experts in the online world of domain management and registration, and they are appropriately concerned about domain and cyber fraud. Common online fraud attempts, include falsified government emails offering tender opportunities, messages about estranged family-member fortunes and fake banking websites.

Cyber fraud is already a concern for South Africans navigating the Internet and, as our internet access stats increase, our need for online risk mitigation and anti-fraud efforts and understanding will grow too.

What to do if you discover a fraudulent South African website?

The most effective way to stop a fraudulent website in South Africa is to request a “Take-down Notice” – to have that site removed from the Internet. Lodging for a Take-down Notice can be done on the official ISPA (Internet Service Providers’ Association) website. The ISPA allows concerned service providers, businesses, domain administrators and internet users to fight the growing risk of phishing and fraudulent South African websites.

The ISPA is a voluntary association and, therefore, the fraudulent site may not be hosted by an ISPA member. If you are unsure of which company is hosting the domain, you can select the “unknown” target option. In these cases, the ISPA will assist in finding relevant information – and gaining access – to the criminal website, removing content hosted by registered, South African ISPs. It can’t, however, deactivate the domain name or obtain identifying information about the fraudster.

How do you report .ZA domain names that are being used for fraud?

As stated, the ZACR is the administrator for the largest group of .ZA domain names. If you identify a scam website ending in some variation of the .za subdomain, you can report the malicious internet activity to the ZACR. After completing and uploading the complaint form, the ZACR will begin an investigation into the potentially fraudulent site.

Once the complaint is lodged and the investigation is underway, you may be asked for additional information regarding the suspected scam. The ZACR will use their extensive digital infrastructure to zero-in on the nefarious actors by investigating the complaint and taking the necessary steps to remove the .ZA website.

What if a fraudster is using a domain name pretending to be my company?

Being a modern company will, usually, entail cultivating a significant and intentional online presence. This can be exploited by online criminals who could register a very similar wed address or .za subdomain in order to defraud you and your customers.

If you are concerned that a fraudster is pretending to represent your business, you can pursue a domain dispute with the relevant domain authorities. Internet service providers and domain administrators are all considerate of the security and reliability of the sites that they host.

For a South African domain name dispute, you might consider a simpler route, by reporting it like any other phishing or fraudulent site. However, you can also take that dispute to the courts or through arbitration. Our legal system has means of combating trademark infringements and false business claims that pertain to .ZA second-level domain name disputes, specifically.

What if I’ve become a victim of online fraud?

From fake banking sites to copycat domains, there are a range of potential risks that come with broader internet access. Individual South Africans need to be aware of these risks and work to mitigate them as much as possible. If you have become a victim of online fraud, you should still follow the appropriate, aforementioned, anti-fraud procedures. You can also report the suspicious activity to our national Cybersecurity Hub.

In addition, you might consider reporting the crime to the police. The affidavit provided will be useful in any legal or domain disputes and cyber fraud is a crime like any other, that should be reported to police. Eventually, we are all exposed to some type of cyber security risk, and having effective anti-fraud practices and services will become more important as more South Africans explore the Internet.

At MarisIT, we are committed to protecting South Africans and their businesses from the growing threat of cyber fraud. We offer a range of products and services designed to mitigate cybersecurity risks and keep your online presence safe and secure. For more information, contact MarisIT today.

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