Don’t fall victim to cash robberies

Cash robberies in shopping malls are becoming the norm in South Africa. But what can you do to protect yourself if this happens while you are out and about. Angelique Ruzicka asks how you can protect yourself while out and about conducting your banking business.

The past few weeks have seen yet another spate of brazen cash-in-transit (CIT) robberies as organised criminals raid shopping malls for large amounts of cash leaving shoppers jittery and on edge.

At the beginning of this month police foiled an attempted robbery at Cresta Shopping Centre in Johannesburg and at the end of July there was another brazen armed robbery at Kayalami Corner in Midrand, Gauteng.

According to news reports by SABRIC, the country has already suffered a loss of R15 million in CIT robberies between January and April 2017. This number has almost certainly risen since then.

“The 2015/2016 national crime statistics indicated a 15% increase in CIT robberies, proving that organised crime remains very active in the cash economy,” says Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect and an expert in cash management and logistics. “This threatens the very artery that feeds our economy.”

Armed robberies are executed by seasoned and experienced criminals who organise themselves into syndicates. These hardened and extremely dangerous gangsters primarily target CIT armoured vehicles, ATMs and retail cash deposit devices.

They typically survey the scene first though to see what their options are. According to SABRIC they make use of “spotters” who are individuals that 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.

There is a chance that you may become a victim of these crimes while out depositing money or standing in a bank queue. To prevent falling victim to this type of crime, SABRIC offers the following advice:

  • Carry as little cash as possible. Lost or stolen cards can always be replaced by your bank but when it comes to money – that’s virtually impossible. So use your cards when you go out shopping. Rather swipe at till points than withdraw the cash you need.
  • Consider the convenience of paying your accounts electronically (consult your bank to find out about other available options). Online banking is easy, fast and cheaper. It can also be done from the comfort of your own home. You’re putting yourself at too much risk transacting over the counter. Plus transacting in this way is very expensive.
  • If you’re not comfortable using a computer, 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.
  • If you still need to transact over the counter on a regular basis vary the days and times that you deposit cash. Consider also rotating the bank branches you visit. And don’t openly display money while you are standing in the bank queue.