Pandemic sees changes in criminal behaviour – banking industry


The arrival and continued presence of COVID-19 in South Africa and worldwide meant many changes not the least of which was and still is – shopping and paying.

“As people turn to online shopping and settling payments on app, criminals upped efforts to phish customers to steal personal data to defraud them on digital and online platforms,” the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) said in a statement reviewing crime statistics for 2020.

“COVID-19, in conjunction with implementation of regulations of the Disaster
Management Act notably influenced financial crime trends in 2020. It triggered
changes in human behaviour, human movement and policing, creating new opportunities for criminals which significantly impacted the number of crime incidents.

“While some crime types decreased, others increased as criminals exploited COVID-19 for own gain. Overall, SABRIC saw an increase in banking crime incidents.”

Digital banking fraud increased by 33%. Debit card fraud rose by 22% and, on a positive note, credit card fraud decreased by seven percent.

The banking industry representative body noted contact crime was impacted by the restriction of movement and visible policing, resulting in less incidents. Associated robberies saw a decrease of 24% in 2020 compared to 2019 with decreases evident in Free State, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

“ATM attacks decreased by nine percent and ATM explosive incidents increased by 20%.

“Cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies decreased significantly due to the level five lockdown in April and May 2020. Once restrictions were lifted these increased by 22% as criminals were able to move with fewer restrictions and fear of roadblocks and searches.

“Robberies and burglaries increased by 42% and 12% respectively.”

Looking to the future SABRIC chief executive Nischal Mewalall warns cybercrime and data breaches will represent a significant threat to customers and banks “because even the best security and technology can be compromised when criminals source and use legitimate data illegally for criminal purposes”.