Cape Town - Wonga.com South Africa warned consumers against a loan scam on Wednesday after it became aware of people offering loans to consumers under the Wonga company logo, registration number and NCR number.
Consumers are being urged to remain vigilant against personal loan scams and other forms of phishing by fraudsters, said Kevin Hurwitz, CEO of Wonga.com SA.
Statistics released by the South African Anti-Phishing Service in 2013 indicated that the country is the second-most targeted country for phishing scams in the world.
In addition, the financial surveillance department of the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) said it has seen a notable increase in advanced fee scams (also known as "419" or "Nigerian letter scams") in SA over the last few years, particularly through the use of mobile phones.
Hurwitz said the criminals send consumers emails claiming to be from Wonga, offering them (fake) loans with unrealistic interest rates.
“Once the recipient contacts the scammers, they are requested to provide personal information and to deposit various amounts of money into different private bank accounts. This continues with repeated requests for an advance fee payable, and the victim never receives the loan funds,” he said.
Hurwitz confirmed that Wonga does not offer business loans and the only way to apply for a real Wonga loan is via the Wonga.com website – never by email or SMS.
In addition, Wonga offers a maximum loan of R2 500 for first time customers. Wonga will never request any payment upfront for a loan.
“The fees Wonga charges are all in line with the National Credit Act and are payable on the customer’s due date. These fees are clearly shown on the homepage, along with the total cost of the loan, before a customer applies,” he said.
He urged consumers to look closely at the email address of the sender of personal loan offers.
Before replying, consumers should check the sender's email address or the link provided in the email.
Consumers must be aware of small errors in website and email addresses such as missing letters, misspellings, a different .com extension or other tweaks to a company's name.
The most recent scam circulating involved an email from a Hotmail account and Outlook account in Thailand (country code: th).”
“Payments for legitimate Wonga loans are transferred via local South African bank accounts, whereas the ‘fake’ company pretends to be transferring money from the UK via an HSBC bank account,” he said.
Unfortunately, scam artists buy data lists that are available in the public marketplace, which include personal contact details of consumers, said Hurwitz.
“In most cases, this is how fraudsters target consumers and it is important to note that the Wonga systems have not been breached and remain secure for consumers who use our site,” he said.
Should a consumer receive a suspicious email offering a personal loan, they should immediately check with the company "offering" the loan to ensure that it is legitimate.
“If the offer sounds too good to be true it probably is,” he said.
What if you suspect a scam?
Any customers who believe they are victims of a scam, should open a criminal case at the South African Police Service (Saps), said Hurwitz.
As soon as a police docket is opened by the consumer, they should send this on to the company in question, which has been fraudulently misrepresented by the scam artist.
This information, including the case number, affidavit and paperwork received as part of the scam, will be used by the company to further investigate the case.
In an effort to combat this growing issue, Wonga recently conducted a widespread advertising campaign warning people about advance fee scams and identity theft.
“I would also like to once again warn consumers that they should remain vigilant at all times when using their personal information and bank details,” said Hurwitz.
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