This four-digit number is top-secret

By Bank Windhoek’s Manager of Forensic Services, Johnny Truter.

There is a four-digit number that gives banking customers access to their money. Fraudsters are aware of this information and are always looking for an opportunity to steal this secret number to defraud them from their hard-earned money.

The confidential four-digit number acts like a key to connect customers to the money in their bank account. Customers should see the four-digit number as their unique personal key to open a personal vault in the safe custody of the bank. The bank will allow anyone who puts in these unique numbers, access to a customer’s accounts because the bank believes it is themselves doing so. Once a customer shares this number with someone, it allows that individual to access their hard-earned money. Chances are very good that the person will actually steal the money when given the opportunity. This four-digit number is commonly known as Personal Identification Number (PIN), and is a security code that confirms an account holder’s identity. If a customer shares their PIN with anybody, they effectively give that person access to their account and allow them to make purchases using a customer’s account and transfer money from their account.  All customers should keep their PIN secret in the same way that they keep a password safe and secure.

Transacting with a debit and credit card requires- entering a PIN. A PIN allows customers to withdraw cash from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), pay for goods in-store, or confirm their identity in a branch. The PIN also allows the person in possession of it to register for the bank Mobile App or internet banking and use it for transactions, and the real account owner may not even know that there is a Mobile App or internet banking service linked to the account. It is a significant number to remember and keep safe. Customers should not share the four-digit numbers with anyone, especially as we approach the festive season. The following are a few tips on how customers can protect these four-digit numbers and their money:

Shielding: Since these four numbers are confidential, whenever a customer is required to use them to connect to their account, they should shield them to make sure that no one sees the numbers being entered. When entering their PINs on a device in view of the public, like an ATM or point-of-purchase device, customers must be aware of their surroundings and look out for anybody standing too close to them. Customers should get in the habit of covering their hand while entering the PIN into a device with the other hand. If customers feel uncomfortable, they can always cancel the transaction.

Safe storage: The best way to store these secret codes is to memorise them. Customers should never write the numbers down or keep them on their mobile phones. They should make sure the four-digit numbers are hard to guess and not use obvious information such as telephone numbers, date of birth, wedding anniversary, and home address.

Secrecy is critical: A secret is something or information that is kept from others. The same should apply in the case of a customers’ PIN. If a customer suspects someone else knows these four digits, they should change it immediately. Never give the PIN or any other personal and banking information out to anyone who is asking for it. This includes persons who call and say they are calling from the customer’s bank and urgently need the information they request. The caller may even tell the customer some of their personal information to sound trustworthy to convince the customer to share information. Customers should end such calls immediately and call their bank themselves.

SMS Alert notifications: Customers should also register for the free SMS Alert service of Bank Windhoek to receive an SMS notification when transactions take place on their account. They should confirm that their phone number with the bank is correct. If a customer receives an SMS notification of a suspicious transaction, they should immediately call the Bank Windhoek 24-hour Customer Contact Centre at 061-2991200 for assistance.

See statements regularly: To practice vigilance, customers should check their accounts and statements regularly and contact their bank immediately if they detect any unusual activity, for example, purchases or ATM withdrawals they did not make.

Similarity is discouraged:  Customers should never use the same PIN on different cards. They should have a separate PIN for each one so that if they happen to lose their wallet, it will be much harder for fraudsters to guess the customer’s PINs.

Customers should note that if they allow someone to borrow their card and PIN, any bank has the legal right to deny a refund should the card or their bank account be compromised. This behaviour is considered a lack of due diligence on a customer’s part to protect their information.

Also, Bank Windhoek will not call or send an email asking customers to update their details and will never include a link in an email to do so. Customers who are victims of a scam or suspect that they are a target in any fraud should contact the Bank Windhoek Customer Contact Centre at 061 299 1200 or their Branch immediately.

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