Six red flags to help you spot an online swindle

Not all scams are the same; some are more sophisticated than others, but there are a few common red flags to look out for.

Some 37% of South African consumers were recently targeted by Covid-19 related digital fraud, according to a recent study by credit rating agency TransUnion.

To help combat this, Sanlam has launched a campaign with comedian and actor Riaad Moosa to help you spot a scam.

“The media is awash with stories about how not to get scammed, and yet people are still falling for these traps,” says Ayanda Ndimande, head of Sanlam business development for retail credit. “Part of the problem is that everyone thinks they’re too clever to get caught out until they are. The pandemic and its effects on people’s pockets have also made many especially vulnerable to these kinds of schemes.”

Internet fraud is particularly effective when people are vulnerable and find themselves in need of a quick credit fix. The pandemic’s economic effects and the pressures of the festive season mean that many South Africans are susceptible to false promises of easy money.

Not all scams are the same; some are more sophisticated than others, but there are a few common red flags to look out for:

Being contacted out of the blue:

Have you ever been walking through the mall and had someone come up to you and offer you money? No? Of course not. The digital world is no different: it is just as unlikely that someone will approach you online with an offer of a generous loan. Scepticism costs nothing but can save you a great deal.

Being asked to share your personal information:

Scammers love knowing everything about you. From your ID number and physical address to your bank statements, they will try to glean as much as they can from you. Be very wary about giving your details to anybody.

Too good to be true:

It is very tempting to think that you may be the luckiest person in the world, but if an offer of a R500 000 loan at 2% interest finds itself in your inbox, then it’s almost certainly too good to be true.

Spelling mistakes:

When was the last time your bank sent you correspondence with spelling mistakes? Reputable companies hire people to make sure that doesn’t happen. Scammers, on the other hand, just hope that you don’t notice. It is also a good idea to check the email address. If it is from a Gmail account, Yahoo or any other free email service then don’t click it.


The more time you mull things over, the less likely you are to be conned. Internet villains know this, and so their schemes often come with a time crunch. Don’t let yourself be pressurised into acting quickly.


Phishing is especially vicious, as it’s a scam correspondence framed like it’s from someone you know. For example, you might get an email from your boss, asking you to urgently send funds because there’s a problem with the company account. It looks legit, seems to come from an address almost exactly like your boss’s email address and is signed with your employer’s name. If you get any email asking for funds, immediately pick up the phone and call the right people to verify. It’s especially easy to fall for phishing and vishing (voice fishing for funds on platforms like WhatsApp).