Publication Date: 18/10/2022

SABRIC, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, on behalf of the banking industry has released its annual crime stats for 2021.

Banking on digital platforms (on app, online and over the telephone) now exceeds all other transaction channels in South Africa and is also the safest. From 2020 to 2021, digital banking fraud incidents decreased by 18% overall. The biggest decline in fraud incidents occurred in mobile banking fraud. While the number of incidents declined, there was a 45% increase in the total gross losses in digital banking in the reporting period.

SABRIC CEO Nischal Mewalall said: “Digital banking products are far safer than in-person banking and enable people to transact from anywhere safely. But criminals have adjusted their social engineering tactics to leverage your data from social media and data leaks, making their efforts to manipulate customers difficult to spot.”

ATM attacks increased by 11% in 2021 with a 17% increase in losses. Incidents where explosives were used increased by 15%, whereas the number of angle grinder incidents decreased by 11%, from 47 in 2020 to 42 incidents in 2021. SABRIC is concerned by the rise in the number of ATM attacks, despite the technology and security measures deployed to make ATMs safer.

Although the industry recorded an 8% decrease in associated robbery incidents overall in 2021, branch-before-deposit incidents increased by 56% with financial losses in the same category increasing by 85%.

For the first time, SABRIC’s annual crime stats publication features application fraud via vehicle and assets, home loans and unsecured fraud (current, cheque and savings accounts, personal and business loans). Vehicle and asset finance fraud increased by 53% in 2021. With regards to home loans, only 12% of reported fraudulent mortgage loan applications were successful while unsecured loans saw a 4.4% decrease from 2020 to 2021.

With regards to card fraud in 2021, card-not-present (CNP) fraud with a debit card contributed to 55.3% of all card fraud. CNP fraud increased by 31.5% when compared to 2020 and remained a concern as transactions with online merchants increased.

Mewalall warned that online shopping can be unsafe because fake websites are being used to defraud you of your money or harvest your credit card data. He adds that in certain instances scammers have even delivered inferior products to create the impression that the website was legitimate.

“We are making inroads in combating banking and financial crime in South Africa. We have trained more than 900 SAPS and NPA personnel on banking products and related evidence. Working closely with the DPCI, we have also established task teams across provinces to aggressively address prioritised banking crime threats,” adds Mewalall.