Beware of conmen

Radovan+Krejcir+It’s that time of the year when criminals become more vicious.

Against this backdrop, the country’s four banks: Standard Lesotho Bank, First National Bank, Nedbank Lesotho and Lesotho Postbank held a joint press conference this week to warn the public to become more vigilant as we enter the festive season.

The most brazen criminals at this time of the year are those armed gangs that raid banking halls and other businesses and make off with loads of cash.

There is credible suspicion that these criminals include hardened South African tsotsis who view Lesotho as an easy target for their insalubrious deeds.

Violent robberies aside, criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated mainly through e-crime.

Two experts from South Africa convened a seminar in Maseru recently to try and sensitise various stakeholders on how to reduce incidents of e-crime.

Criminals are usually at least a step ahead of law enforcement agents, and probably two-steps ahead of the general public. They keep reworking their stratagems to beat their victims. They plan, plan and re-plan.

South Africa is currently transfixed with the case of notorious Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir, the alleged ringleader of South Africa’s notorious underworld, who has conned various individuals and institutions.

Krejcir’s crime spree has left 12 dead bodies in its wake.

Reports that several members of South Africa’s police force are on Krejcir’s payroll have dumbfounded that country.

The fugitive, who ran from his country to escape fraud charges and an 11-year jail sentence, and landed in South Africa on a false passport, is a good example of how criminals can flourish if authorities look the other way.

But more importantly, Krejcir is a textbook example of how criminals plan and keep themselves ahead of law enforcement officials and the public.

Until his arrest this week, Krejcir had become untouchable and had roamed the streets freely despite the several criminal acts he had been linked to.

We pray that the good Lord never let creatures of Krejcir’s type near our shores. We also hope our law enforcement officers will keep their eyes on the ball.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s avowed determination to deal mercilessly with criminals and make Lesotho crime-free is inspiring.

Apart from the obvious violent acts, crime is taking more insidious forms, particularly in the form of e-crime being used to skim people’s cards and steal their money without pointing a gun.

Through sophisticated means criminals duplicate the details on people’s bank cards and sureptitiously obtain secret pins and then cream off accounts even after your actual card is not stolen.

This is why the banks repeatedly advise everyone never to let their cards out of their sight.

It also explains why restaurants a while ago introduced the portable point of sale (pos) terminals to enable clients to pay on the tables.

Still criminals have come up with a way of circumventing these safeguards to skim bank cards even when customers are close to their cards.

The bankers at Monday’s press conference repeated the usual warnings about the need to avoid seeking help at ATMs from strangers, keeping your pins secret, protecting identification documents, reporting lost cards and suspicious behaviour and avoiding being distracted to enable the theft of your secret PIN codes, among other precautionary measures.

Despite these repeated warnings, it is amazing that many people still fail to heed the advice.

Apart from using electronic skimming platforms, criminals have also resorted to social media like Facebook.

Daily these criminals send friendly messages, including proposals for romantic relationships with accompanying pictures of beautiful ladies, to entice unsuspecting men.

The simplest advice is any proposals of friendship from unfamiliar names should not be entertained because that simply brings con artists into your confidence and eases their access to your profile and private data.

Ultimately, as e-crime intensifies, the responsibility of combating criminals becomes more of a collective effort requiring concerted action from individual bank clients, law enforcement officers and the banks themselves.

Banks have an onerous responsibility to keep a close eye on their employees, many of whom face accusations of facilitating crime.

Banks must continue developing systems that safeguard the details and accounts of their customers.

But no system can ever be foolproof.

In the end, we all have to play a part to avoid losing our hard earned cash.

We also dare the criminals themselves to become law abiding citizens and avoid living off others.

As the lesson of the notorious Krejcir tells us: there is only one end for criminals; a long lonely life behind thick bars.

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