South African Banking Risk Information Centre Warns of Increasing Cash Robberies

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), on behalf of the banking industry remains concerned with the number of bank clients that fall victim to cash robberies daily. These incidents increased by 4% from 2015 to 2016, with 695 incidents reported so far in 2017. Bank client cash losses for 2017 from January to June amounted to R21 million.

Associated robberies are not limited to urban areas, but also occur in rural towns across South Africa. The Eastern Cape saw the largest increase (48%) from 2015 to 2016. From 2017 January to June, Gauteng has shown the highest number of incidents (382) followed by KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and the Free State.

Tragically, from 2014 to June 2017, SABRIC recorded 27 fatalities and 69 injuries due to cash robberies. The modus operandi usually sees the perpetrators follow a victim to their residence, place of work, or any other place where it is easy to rob them. In addition to being verbally abusive, robbers will resort to violence if necessary, particularly if the victim resists. In most robberies, robbers are armed with handguns.

Kalyani Pillay, CEO of SABRIC says, “It is shocking that bank clients, who are the victims of these crimes, are killed and injured during these robberies. This is why we encourage bank customers to find safer ways to transact instead of carrying large amounts of cash.”

Not only do these criminals target individuals, but they are also target business owners who deposit or withdraw large amounts of cash.

The modus operandi using a spotter is quite prevalent. “Spotters” are individuals who enter the bank purporting to be clients, and will even queue to give the impression that they are bank clients. Their sole purpose is to identify victims who have made a cash withdrawal. They communicate the victims’ description to accomplices who wait outside the bank. These accomplices then follow the victim and rob them of their cash.

In addition, Stokvels are also at risk. From 2014 to June 2017, 50 Stokvel robbery incidents were reported, with 82% of incidents occurring during November and December 2016 due to the festive season. Of these incidents 54% occurred in Gauteng and 24% in KwaZulu-Natal.

While we hope for more investigations to be completed, followed by successful prosecutions, we are pleased with a particular conviction this year, where four accused received life sentences, with an additional 15 to 20 years. Kalyani Pillay says, “Thanks to collaboration between the South African Police Service, the Prosecuting Authority and the Banking Industry, these criminals are being brought to book.”

Kalyani urges bank clients to be vigilant about paying attention to their surroundings, even when inside a bank. Clients can protect themselves, and reduce the risk of becoming a victim by following the tips below:

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 cell phone banking or internet transfers or ATMs to do your banking.
  • Never make your bank visits public, even to people close to you.

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 nearby 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.

Tips for Stokvel Groupings

  • Refrain from making cash deposits of club members’ contributions on high-risk days (e.g. Monday after month end).
  • Ensure persons 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 pay out to be electronically transferred into each club member’s personal account or accounts of their choice.
  • Take another person with when going to deposit club cash contributions.