How Credit Card fraud works in South Africa?

Credit card fraud is a pressing concern in South Africa, where scammers defrauded citizens of over R900 million in 2023 […]

credit card fraud

Credit card fraud is a pressing concern in South Africa, where scammers defrauded citizens of over R900 million in 2023 alone, marking a staggering increase of over 9% from the previous year. This alarming trend underscores the urgency of addressing the issue and implementing effective preventive measures to safeguard individuals’ financial security.

Sophisticated Tactics of Scammers

Many South Africans have fallen victim to scammers who employ sophisticated tactics to access credit card information. With the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), scammers have become even more adept at targeting unsuspecting individuals, highlighting the need for heightened vigilance and awareness among consumers.

Projected Increase in Fraudulent Activities

It is projected that credit card fraud will surpass R1 billion for the first time in 2024, indicating a worrisome escalation in fraudulent activities. According to Statista, credit card fraud is expected to account for a significant portion, 43%, of all online sales fraud in South Africa in 2024. These projections underscore the gravity of the situation and emphasize the importance of taking proactive measures to protect against fraud.

Evolution of Scammers’ Techniques

The prevalence of credit card fraud underscores the relentless efforts of scammers to exploit vulnerabilities in payment systems and technology. Some syndicates invest significant sums in acquiring sophisticated equipment and software to perpetrate fraudulent activities. Moreover, criminals continually enhance their skills to adapt to evolving technologies and devise innovative schemes to defraud unsuspecting individuals.

Understanding How Fraud Works

It is imperative for consumers to understand how credit card fraud operates, as anyone can fall victim to these scams at any time. Scammers often target gullible individuals and employ various tactics to trick them into divulging their credit card details. Whether in South Africa or abroad, perpetrators utilize similar methods to exploit vulnerabilities in payment systems and extract financial information from unsuspecting victims.

Methods of Credit Card Fraud

1. Counterfeit Card Fraud

Counterfeit card fraud involves the illegal reproduction of credit or debit cards using stolen card information obtained through various means, such as skimming devices or data breaches. Fraudsters then use these counterfeit cards to make unauthorized purchases or withdrawals.

Methods Used:

  • Skimming Devices: Criminals install skimming devices on ATMs, gas station pumps, or point-of-sale terminals to capture card information from unsuspecting victims.
  • Data Breaches: Hackers infiltrate databases of retailers, financial institutions, or online merchants to steal card information and create counterfeit cards.
  • Card Cloning: Fraudsters use stolen card information to create exact replicas of legitimate cards, including magnetic stripes and security features.

Preventive Measures:

  • Regularly monitor bank statements and credit reports for any unauthorized transactions or suspicious activity.
  • Use chip-enabled cards whenever possible, as they offer enhanced security features compared to traditional magnetic stripe cards.
  • Avoid using ATMs or payment terminals that appear tampered with or suspicious.

2. Lost and Stolen Card Fraud

Lost and stolen card fraud occurs when criminals gain unauthorized access to physical credit or debit cards that have been lost or stolen from their rightful owners. They then use these cards to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals before the theft is reported.

Methods Used:

  • Physical Theft: Criminals steal wallets, purses, or bags containing credit or debit cards, either through pickpocketing or burglary.
  • Mail Theft: Fraudsters intercept mail containing new or replacement cards before they reach their intended recipients.
  • Online Purchase: Stolen cards are used to make online purchases or transactions without requiring physical verification.

Preventive Measures:

  • Immediately report lost or stolen cards to the issuing bank or financial institution to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Regularly monitor credit card statements and transaction alerts for any suspicious activity or unauthorized charges.
  • Enable card freezing or blocking features through mobile banking apps to prevent unauthorized transactions.

3. False Application Fraud

False application fraud involves the use of stolen or fabricated personal information to apply for new credit cards or financial accounts without the victim’s knowledge or consent. Fraudsters then use these fraudulent accounts to make purchases or cash advances.

Methods Used:

  • Identity Theft: Criminals steal personal information, such as social security numbers, addresses, and dates of birth, to impersonate victims and open fraudulent accounts.
  • Synthetic Identity Theft: Fraudsters create entirely fictitious identities using a combination of real and fabricated information to apply for credit cards or loans.
  • Collusion with Insider: Fraudsters collude with employees or insiders at financial institutions to bypass identity verification processes and approve fraudulent applications.

Preventive Measures:

  • Regularly review credit reports from major credit bureaus to detect any unauthorized or suspicious accounts opened under your name.
  • Set up fraud alerts with credit card issuers or financial institutions to receive notifications of any unusual account activity or applications.
  • Safeguard personal information by shredding sensitive documents, using strong passwords, and avoiding sharing personal details on insecure websites or emails.

4. Card Not Present (CNP) Fraud

Card Not Present (CNP) fraud occurs when criminals make unauthorized transactions using stolen card information without the physical presence of the card or cardholder. This type of fraud commonly occurs in online or remote transactions.

Methods Used:

  • Phishing Attacks: Fraudsters use deceptive emails, websites, or messages to trick individuals into providing their card information or login credentials.
  • Card Skimming: Criminals capture card details, including card numbers and expiration dates, during online transactions or data breaches to use for fraudulent purchases.
  • Account Takeover: Hackers gain unauthorized access to online accounts by obtaining login credentials through phishing, brute force attacks, or malware.

Preventive Measures:

  • Use secure payment methods, such as virtual credit cards or digital wallets, for online transactions to minimize the risk of exposing sensitive card information.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or phone calls requesting personal or financial information and avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Regularly update antivirus software, use strong and unique passwords for online accounts, and enable multi-factor authentication where available to enhance security.

5. Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when personal information, such as ID numbers, addresses, or financial details, is stolen and used to make fraudulent purchases or open new accounts in someone else’s name. Fraudsters may obtain this information through data breaches, phishing scams, or physical theft of documents.


  • Regularly monitor credit reports for any unauthorized activity or accounts opened in your name.
  • Safeguard sensitive information by shredding documents containing personal details before disposal.
  • Enable fraud alerts with credit bureaus to receive notifications of suspicious activity on your credit report.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts and avoid sharing personal information on insecure websites or emails.

6. Vishing (Voice Phishing)

Vishing is similar to phishing but conducted over the phone, where fraudsters impersonate legitimate entities to extract credit card information from unsuspecting individuals. These scammers often pose as representatives from banks, government agencies, or tech support services and use persuasive tactics to deceive victims into divulging sensitive information.


  • Be cautious of unsolicited calls requesting personal or financial information, especially if the caller pressures you to provide sensitive details.
  • Verify the legitimacy of the caller by asking for their name, organization, and contact information, then independently verify their identity through official channels.
  • Avoid sharing personal or financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call and are certain of the recipient’s authenticity.
  • Register your phone number on the national Do Not Call registry to reduce the frequency of unsolicited calls from telemarketers and potential scammers.

7. Phishing

Phishing is a common tactic used by fraudsters to trick individuals into disclosing sensitive information, such as credit card details, through deceptive emails or text messages. These messages often appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or online retailers, and prompt recipients to provide their information unwittingly.


  • Be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages requesting personal or financial information.
  • Verify the authenticity of emails by checking the sender’s email address and avoiding clicking on suspicious links or attachments.
  • Contact the supposed sender directly through official channels to confirm the legitimacy of any requests for personal information.
  • Install reputable antivirus software and firewalls to detect and prevent malware infections on your devices and networks.


Credit card fraud remains a pervasive threat in South Africa, where scammers employ various methods to exploit vulnerabilities in payment systems and technology. By understanding these tactics and implementing proactive measures for prevention, individuals can mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraudulent schemes and protect their financial security. Vigilance, awareness, and adherence to best security practices are essential in combating credit card fraud and ensuring peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

1 thought on “How Credit Card fraud works in South Africa?”

  1. Everybody should know this and share with friends. The same would apply when using cheque and savings accounts as well.

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