Safeguard yourself and your money

Don't become a victim this holiday season by following these safety tips

The holiday season is officially upon us and many of us will receive stokvel lump sum returns and bonus cheques. It is also a high-risk period for criminal activity with stokvel-related robberies and thefts on the increase.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), on behalf of the banking industry, warns bank clients always to remain alert when carrying cash.

Two crime types remain prevalent. In the first type, victims are followed out of a bank branch after a cash withdrawal has been made, which comprises the majority of cases. There are also incidences where people are followed after withdrawing money at an ATM. In both these cases, criminals follow the victim to their residence, place of work or any other place where it is easy to rob them. In the case of bank branches, “spotters” operate and communicate the victims’ description to accomplices, who wait outside the bank. Small business owners are also at risk, particularly when drawing cash to pay weekly wages.

In most robberies, robbers are armed and will resort to violence if the victim tries to resist.

While the banks don’t suffer the financial loss, they are nevertheless very concerned about the safety of their clients. In most robberies, robbers are armed and will resort to violence if the victim tries to resist. From 2017 to June 2018, SABRIC recorded eight fatalities and 26 injuries due to cash robberies.

Robberies are not limited to urban areas, but also occur in rural towns across South Africa. Gauteng showed the highest number of incidents (843) for 2017 at 58%, and was followed by KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape.

According to incidents reported to SABRIC between 2015 and January 2018, 52 stokvel robbery incidents were also reported.

Kalyani Pillay, the CEO of SABRIC, says, “It is very distressing that bank clients who are the victims of stokvel and associated robberies are often injured or even killed during these incidents, which is why we urge them to find safer ways to transact, such as internet transfers or mobile banking, instead of carrying large amounts of cash.”

Kalyani therefore urges bank clients to protect themselves, and reduce the risk of becoming a victim, by following the tips below:

It is important for stokvel clubs to adopt extra safety measures when withdrawing and sharing money to avoid becoming victims of crime.

Tips for stokvel groups

  • Aim to do all of your stokvel’s bookkeeping ahead of the holiday period rush.
  • For bulk-buying groups, arrange for your local branch to make payments directly to retailers if possible. The bank needs the bank details of the retailer with a reference that will allow the retailer to identify your deposit. The bank will provide you with proof of payment, which you can provide to the retailer in need. Your bank can also write a bank-guaranteed cheque for you. No one else except the person it is made out to can deposit it.
  • Refrain from making cash deposits of club members’ contributions on high-risk days (e.g. Monday after month-end).
  • Encourage members who don’t have bank accounts to open one as soon as possible.
  • Ensure those depositing club cash contributions or making withdrawals are accompanied by another club member.
  • A stokvel savings club or burial society can arrange for members to deposit cash directly into the club’s account instead of collecting cash contributions.
  • Arrange for the club’s payout to be electronically transferred into each club member’s personal account or accounts of their choice.
  • Take another person along when going to deposit club cash contributions.

Tips for individuals

  • Carry as little cash as possible.
  • Consider the convenience of paying your accounts electronically (consult your bank to find out about other available options).
  • Consider making use of cellphone banking or internet transfers or ATMs to do your banking.
  • Never make your bank visits public, even to people close to you. Criminals can use this information to plan their robberies.

Tips for businesses

  • Vary the days and times on which you deposit cash.
  • Never make your bank visits public, even to people close to you.
  • Do not openly display the money you are depositing while you are standing in the bank queue.
  • Avoid carrying moneybags, briefcases or openly displaying your deposit receipt book.
  • It is advisable to identify another branch near you that you can visit to ensure that your banking pattern is not easily recognisable or detected.
  • If the amount of cash you are regularly depositing is increasing as your business grows, consider using the services of a cash management company.
  • Refrain from giving wages to your contract or casual labourers in full view of the public; rather make use of wage accounts that can be provided by your bank.
  • Consider arranging for electronic transfers of wages to contract or casual labourers’ personal bank accounts.