Mobile payments set to make their mark on business

According to Gartner, half of consumers in developed economies such as North America, Western Europe and Japan will use smartphones or wearable technologies to make payments by 2018.

“Product managers must understand who their customers are for these new devices and services, and how the products are being used. Knowing your customer is imperative in order to capture a fair share of spending opportunities in this dynamic marketplace,” said Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Technology giants Apple and Samsung are racing to roll out payments services in a bid to capture the consumer market.

Apple recently partnered with UnionPay to bring its Apple Pay platform to China. The iPhone-maker’s platform will work with QuickPass from UnionPay to allow consumers pay via NFC connectivity.

Cloud technology

Reports indicate that Samsung will also launch its service in China in 2016. The South Korean company has partnered with American Express, Visa, and MasterCard to roll out its services in the US.

But Gartner said that mobile payments would be limited if they focused on device specific technology.

“Any mobile payment wallets that are tied to the device will have limited adoption and only if the device has a huge installed base,” said Annette Jump, research director at Gartner.

Jump suggested that internet cloud-based technology would have a better chance of success and reduce the need for partnership agreements with banks.

In SA, data from First National Bank showed that an increasing number of customers are migrating their accounts online, with over 1.5 million devices on the firm’s banking application.

“Just over 50% of users are Millennials, with the remainder being Generation X and Baby Boomers. Generation X accounts for about 50% of the rand value spent on the app. eBucks are used even more by Millenials to pay for purchases (76%) than Generation X (21%),” Sahil Mungar, head of Marketing for FNB Digital Banking told Fin24 recently.

Bank blessing a must

Online retailer takealot said that the online market in SA is only about 2% of the R800bn retail market for consumer goods.

For mobile payment platforms to work in SA, it is critical that banks give their blessing to the technology, said an analyst.

“In summary, if the big five banks don’t want Apple Pay or Android Pay to work in South Africa, then it simply won’t happen because the big five banks control the merchant card acceptance infrastructure and completely dominate card issuance in South Africa.

“As much as Apple and Goggle might make the mobile payment technology available, it just won’t work without the permission and cooperation of the banks,” Craig Kilfoil, managing director of ExactConsult, told Fin24 recently. –Fin24

Be aware of fong kong UHD TVs in SA

Consumers beware: Major TV manufacturer is warning its customers about a fake Ultra-High Definition (UHD) TV being sold around the country.

Samsung warns buyers of an UHD TV to be certain they are purchasing a genuine 4K set in order to guarantee the most thrilling and immersive entertainment experience.

The firm cautioned consumers against some of the so-called branded televisions on the market that are not true UHD.

Spotting the difference between real and pseudo 4K / UHD TVs

 Take a close-up photo of a white portion of your TV screen

  • Zoom in the photo as far as it will go:
    • If you see perfect vertical and horizontal lines of red, green and blue, repeated in this order throughout, your TV is a genuine 4K UHD TV.
    • However, if you see any lines of white mixed in with the red, green and blue lines, your TV delivers pseudo UHD TV.

Generally, fake UHD TVs do not come with as much feature variety as the genuine article and rarely give consumers the connected lifestyle and dynamic experience that come standard with the real thing.

“Customers should always check the exact resolution of any television that claims to be UHD quality,” says Matthew Thackrah, deputy MD  at Samsung Electronics SA. “It is essential to examine the credentials of any manufacturer claiming to sell a UHD TV and to make sure that resolution is true 4K. Check that the TV has an aspect ratio of at least 16:9, a colour bit depth of 8 bits and a high frame rate of around 24p to 60p. Many units don’t have clear information about the display or the core technology, so ask the right questions and make sure you get the right answers before you make a purchase.”





Facebook stalking your ex is addictive

It’s been shown that the use of social media comes with pros and cons: increased social connection and enhanced commitment in relationships, but also increased depression and decline in well-being. By 

One common situation that can lead to negative feelings is the problem of coping with the end of a relationship in the age of Facebook – when the ex’s profile is there to be seen and pored over, potentially causing untold psychological anguish. Even Facebook has recognised we can’t help ourselves, and introduced a tool that will prevent a user coming across any mention of the ex-partner.

My research has found that a third of people involved in a relationship admitted that they “very often” looked at their current partner’s Facebook page, and about the same number admitted they Facebook-stalked an ex-partner through Facebook at least once a week.

Facebook surveillance is often perceived as a typical, harmless response to a breakup, but I’ve found that such Facebook stalking may obstruct the natural process of getting over an ex. More specifically, I found that this sort of surveillance was associated with greater distress over the breakup, protracted longing for an ex-partner, more negative feelings towards and sexual desire for the ex, and lower personal growth.

This has been supported by other studies, which found that those who Facebook stalk their exes are six times more likely to pursue unwanted intimacy with the ex-partner, such as by following or approaching them, sending letters or leaving gifts. This can be perceived as moderately threatening by former partners, who may experience anxiety and depression as a result.

So are some individuals more vulnerable to “unhealthy” or problematic uses of social networking sites such as Facebook? Can excessive use create problems where previously none existed?

Facebook’s window to other people’s lives

Problematic Facebook use (“Facebook addiction”) is characterised by a preoccupation with Facebook that leads to excessive use, feelings of withdrawal when away from it, and even some degree of vocational and/or social impairment such as neglect of academic studies or close relationships. A recent study found that people who are socially anxious but crave companionship were particularly susceptible to problematic Facebook use.

These people may prefer to socially interact online rather than face-to-face because it satisfies their need to belong without the stress of meeting in person. And of course, with only an online profile they have far greater control over how they present themselves to others. But if this preference for socialising online rather than face-to-face becomes excessive it can interfere with close relationships, or performance at school or work.

However, because this study collected only correlational data at one point in time, it cannot establish whether Facebook addiction is a symptom of social anxiety, or whether it’s a unique disorder in its own right. Perhaps a longitudinal research approach, examining psychological phenomena over long periods of time, can shed further light on the roots of Facebook addiction and its consequences.

For example, another study found that social anxiety, loneliness and depression were associated with more problematic internet use a few months later. This problematic internet use was in turn associated with social and work impairment a few months later still. But the study found little support for the reverse, that impairment led to problematic internet use and, in turn, social anxiety, loneliness, and depression. This suggests that Facebook addiction and problematic internet is something unique, something extra that contributes to social and work problems over and above the more understood effects of social anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Facebook stalking

So is it that too much Facebook turns otherwise emotionally stable adults into jealous cyberstalkers? Or is it just that some are more disposed towards more obsessive behaviour than others?

I’ve found that people with an anxious attachment style – that is, those with low self-esteem, a fear of rejection, and greater jealousy in relationships – are more likely to Facebook stalk current and ex-partners. They may monitor their Facebook profiles to feel close to them, and to identify or ward off any threats from real or imagined romantic rivals.

It’s not inevitable that anyone who uses Facebook will become a problematic user, but this sort of social media surveillance uniquely contributes to negative feelings after a breakup – more so than just what those with attachment anxiety might feel without using Facebook. Again, this suggests that Facebook surveillance isn’t just a symptom of anxious attachment, but something extra.

So the studies all point to the idea that problematic Facebook use, whether of the “Facebook addict” or “Facebook stalker” varieties, does bring its own problems that can be detected above and beyond the negative effects of conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-breakup distress that it’s associated with. However we still can’t say for sure whether social media or Facebook is the root of these problems, rather than pre-existing psychological tendencies. For now, the jury’s still out.

SA nuclear site set to get green light

With cabinet having allegedly approved the nuclear procurement programme this month, the next step will be to give the green light to the environmental impact assessment of the Thyspunt site near Jeffreys Bay.

Dr Kelvin Kemm, who serves on the ministerial Advisory Council on Energy, says this process has been completed and the next step is government approval, which could come quite soon.

Kemm gave this update in his opinion piece below, which touches on the local economic benefits for Port Elizabeth, why South Africa needs nuclear energy and the safety issues around the programme. – Fin24.

BEFORE any nuclear power station can be built, there is a very rigorous process involved in the site selection and verification. By Dr Kelvin Kemm

An important part of the verification process is the environmental impact assessment. In the case of the new nuclear plants planned, the environmental assessment process has been going on for half a dozen years.

The process has just been completed, with the last legally required public meeting being held in Port Elizabeth in December. The final recommendation was published a few weeks ago and the environmental investigation team has recommended that the Thyspunt site, near Jeffreys Bay be used. (Actually the site is nearer Oyster Bay, a few kilometres south of Jeffreys Bay.)

The site analysis and investigation has been exhaustive, in line with international projects. Initially, five potential sites were identified along the coast ranging from Oyster Bay around to the Northern Cape coast. Three of the five were then examined in-depth for years before the conclusion was reached that Thyspunt is the best one to start with.

It is now up to cabinet to make the formal government decision, based on the recommendations of the scientists.

The geology under the ground has been examined. So have the weather patterns, going back historically for many years. The fauna and flora have been documented and studied. The sea currents, sea life, bird populations, and everything conceivable has been studied.

The site itself is just under 4 000 hectares in size, of which about 50ha will be used for the nuclear plant. If the whole site is equated to a chess board, the nuclear plant will use one square. The other 63 squares will stand vacant forever, in line with international standards.

Stories that the plant construction will devastate the entire 4 000ha plus the seabed are just untrue. Every procedure, for activities such as moving beach sand, is prescribed in detail. Not only is this in line with international protocol, it is also just good business practice. The more one knows in advance which procedures will be used, the more efficiently the work can be done when building starts.

As soon as the government makes its decision – and let us assume that they follow the recommendations of the scientists and choose Thyspunt – then site preparation can begin.

That means building the access roads, levelling the ground, preparing for the concrete foundations and a host of other activities, independent of choosing the one or more international partners who are offering their nuclear plant designs.

The potential economic input into the Eastern Cape region is enormous. The plan is for as many local companies as possible to benefit from gaining construction and fabrication contracts, ranging from earth moving to water supply, accommodation, catering, component manufacture and much more as this project unfolds.

South Africa will be building a group of new nuclear power stations to add an extra 9 600 MW of nuclear power to the existing approximately 2 000 MW of nuclear power that we currently generate from Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town, which is the only nuclear power station in Africa.

SA will be building three new nuclear power stations, which will collectively produce the required 9 600 MW in total. Government can place two or three nuclear reactors on each power station site, depending on the type and configuration it chooses. (That is where this story of five or eight, or any other number of nuclear plants comes from, that one reads about.)

A mountain of debate and emotion

Nuclear has been in the news a great deal and the topic arouses a mountain of debate and emotion.

At social functions, one sees people with concerned looks on their faces, and in sombre tones, referring to the “lessons learned from Fukushima”. People nod and agree without any idea of what they are talking about.

So what were the lessons of Fukushima? The largest earthquake on record in the Japanese region produced the largest tsunami on record, which then struck Japan’s oldest nuclear power station. Note that it was a 40-year-old power station that was built to an obsolete 60-year-old design and was heading for retirement anyway.

What was the result? Well, the total amount of people killed by nuclear radiation was zero. The total harmed by radiation was zero. The total private property harmed by radiation was zero. Nuclear radiation hurt nobody.

Later the United Nations commissioned a multi-country task team to investigate the potential long-term health effects on people and the conclusion they came to was that it would be zero.

So the primary lesson of Fukushima is that nuclear power is far safer than anybody realised.

By the way, Koeberg is built to a larger earthquake and tsunami specification than Fukushima was, yet the Cape has no earthquake threat like that of Japan.

Albert Einstein’s famous equation

Just over a century ago, Albert Einstein ushered in the nuclear age, without realising it. He developed his famous E=mc² equation, which most people will recognise but very few will know the meaning of. It states that matter, like iron, porcelain, rocks  or any substance, can turn into energy, if one uses a nuclear reaction.

In reality, the materials that productively produce nuclear energy very well are uranium, plutonium and thorium. Even Einstein, at the beginning, did not believe that mankind would actually be able to extract practical energy using his equation.

But he changed his mind during the early stages of the Second World War, when an atom bomb started to seem feasible.

At that point, the US nuclear bomb programme needed uranium, in secret, so they quietly approached Prime Minister Jan Smuts of South Africa to ask for uranium. We were dumping it, after we had extracted the gold from the ore. South African gold ore has uranium in it.

So, South Africa has been in the nuclear business since the 1940s, and is now one of the oldest nuclear countries in the world, predating countries like France, China, and Japan.

Why does SA need nuclear?

So why does South Africa want more nuclear power now? The answer is simple, but not readily apparent. If you look at the size of South Africa, it is about the same size as the whole of Western Europe. We are big by their standards.

There is no such thing as a German electrical grid or a French grid or an Italian grid, as they are all heavily interconnected. There is one large pan-European grid in which electricity flows backwards and forwards over their borders all of the time. So even though the Italians claim to have no nuclear power, they are supplied with nuclear power from France. France even supplies nuclear to England by means of cables under the English Channel.

South Africa is on its own. We have no big electricity producing neighbours to bail us out when we need extra power. We just get load shedding.

By far the largest portion of South Africa’s electricity is supplied by coal. Great, we have lots of coal. But there is a snag – all the coal is in the far north east of the country, in northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

The distance from Pretoria, near the coal fields, to Cape Town is the same as the distance from Rome to London. Imagine if London drew much of its electricity from Rome. Ask the London Stock Exchange how comfortable they would feel with that. When I was in London to present a seminar, delegates were amazed to find that half of Cape Town’s electricity comes from the other side of Pretoria. Koeberg supplies about half the power of the Western Cape, while the other half comes from the big coal power stations.

By the way, a whole power station’s worth of electricity is lost by heat and magnetic dissipation as we push the coal power all the way to the Cape.

South Africa has to produce much more big power down south to supply the Western and Eastern Cape, and to lessen the strategic risk to the country of a very stretched system. Imagine all of Western Europe being supplied with electricity from essentially one place.

The only answer for South Africa is nuclear power. We cannot carry coal to the Cape. In case there are users saying: “what about solar and wind?” let me remind people that you only get solar in the daytime, if there are no clouds or rain, and you only get wind when the wind blows.

In any event, wind and solar contributes a very small amount globally. How many people know that Germany, two years ago, started an urgent programme to build new coal-fired power stations, because their optimistic wind dreams did not deliver? The first new German coal plant came on line a couple of years ago, but to dead silence from the media. In November 2015, the German company Vattenfall opened another new coal-fired power plant in Moorburg, a suburb of Hamburg.

Work for South Africans

South Africans built Koeberg nuclear power plant on time and on budget. It is a French design but South Africans, working with French companies, built the power station.

Who do you think levels the ground, digs the foundations, lays the concrete slabs, builds the walls, lays the water pipes, and so on? Certainly not imported workers. It amazes me when people use inflated financial figures and talk of “buying nuclear power plants” from other countries, as if we will just buy an entire plant with one cheque. We will not do that.

South Africa will choose one or more foreign companies to partner with and will then enter into a mutual construction arrangement.

People say to me that the foreign company may well supply substandard parts or plans, and we would not know of it. Nonsense. We have highly competent nuclear scientists and engineers who know exactly what they are doing and who know exactly how foreign reactors work.

We also have a National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), which by law has to certify every step of an acquisition and construction process. For example, welds on pipes are x-rayed, with great precision, and are checked to the finest detail, before being passed as nuclear compliant.

In turn our NNR, and our country, have formal legally binding agreements in place with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These agreements allow for regular and random inspections by the IAEA during which, by contract, we have to show IAEA inspectors anything that they wish to see. Nothing is off-limits to them.

As far as nuclear sites are concerned, a number have been identified over many years. Three prime sites were then subjected to intensive investigation for half a dozen years. All the site requirement factors comply with IAEA specifications. There is absolutely no way that a nuclear power plant could be secretly built on the old Durban airport site, as some people on some Alice in Wonderland flight of fantasy have claimed.

South African nuclear professionals are good and are internationally recognised. They know what they are doing and have monitored and guided South Africa’s new nuclear programme every step of the way. Nobody is making a sucker out of us. It is quite amazing to hear, at times, the completely way-out claims of self-appointed experts who sprout complete nonsense and insult South African intellect into the bargain. I am tired of reading of British or American professors of sociology, pronouncing from their countries, that nuclear power construction is beyond the capability of South Africans.

South Africa plans to double national electricity output by 2035, while Europe has no such objective. In fact, Germany has an objective of reducing electricity consumption by 25% by 2050. Many of our African neighbours are in a very difficult situation, being only 5% to 15% electrified. Their electricity production must double, and double again, and again. They have to do that for social and economic stability. We have to stand by them for the sake of the stability of the sub-continent.

So, we effectively have electricity commitments to contend with, beyond our national borders. Do not look to Europe for answers, it is not Africa.

Here, where the elephants roam and the bushveld seems half dead in winter, and the world’s largest sardine shoals make an annual pilgrimage, we have to solve our own challenges, with assured self-confidence.

* Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and CEO of Nuclear Africa. He is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Energy. – Fin24

British tourist hit with a £5,000 roaming bill in SA

A British holidaymaker racked up a staggering R112, 428.51 (£5,000) mobile phone bill after he switched on his phone to retrieve Cape Town hotel details from an email, according to the UK-based Independent newspaper report.

James Stevenson arrived in Cape Town on holiday and switched on his phone to retrieve hotel details from an email.

“By the time he had found the email, Vodafone had sent a text telling him he had run up a bill of £495. Confused, he called the company and found out his total bill for data roaming in the airport was more than £5,000 – the same amount he spent on the family holiday,” said the Independent report.

Stevenson told the newspaper his holiday was spoiled due to the stress: “Vodafone were dismissive, and I spent the holiday worrying about this bill.”

“We’ll look into this as a high priority and will be in contact with Mr Stevenson to discuss the outstanding amount,” a spokesman for Vodafone told the Independent.

The full report is available in the

Holidaymakers gets huge internet roaming bill after oversea trip.

Craig Lowe, founder of execMobile, which provides products and solutions for mobile connectivity, answers some common (and important) questions around staying connected abroad. For more read: Everything you need to know about connecting abroad


Vuvuzela, a next-generation anonymity tool that protects users by adding NOISE

Cryptography is the science of keeping secrets, with encryption algorithms and methods such as public key encryption the gold standard. Despite widespread usage and heavy scrutiny, these ciphers remain unbroken. But while encryption can keep messages secret, it cannot protect the identities of the sender and receiver. By 

Details such as the IP addresses of computers communicating on the internet and other metadata can reveal more than just the identities of those communicating. Companies use metadata to infer sexual orientation, approximate age, gender and interests for targeted advertising, while intelligence and law enforcement agencies collect and analyse it for their own uses. As a former director of the NSA puts it pithily: “We kill people based on metadata.”

So anonymity is required as well as secrecy, for which the most polished tool is Tor. Tor allows users to browse the web anonymously, but has come under sustained attack – and cracks have begun to show. Is it time for a replacement? Vuvuzela, a prototype anonymising software designed by MIT researchers, is one attempt.

Tor achieves anonymity by partially encrypting as much metadata as possible, revealing only small amounts and only as late on in the communication as possible. It sends messages via the encrypted Tor network, where it’s difficult for attackers that snoop on network traffic to detect where a message comes from and where it is going. That an NSA presentation leaked by Edward Snowden included the statement “Tor Stinks” suggests that even the NSA found it difficult to crack.

Yet when the FBI shut down the Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 illegal online marketplaces, their prosecutions seemingly relied on evidence collected despite Tor’s privacy measures. Tor has well-known security weaknesses which are explicitly stated by the developers. One is that Tor cannot withstand traffic analysis by an attacker who can monitor global internet traffic in real time: whenever user A sends a message to Tor and almost immediately afterwards Tor sends a message to website B, then it is likely that A uses Tor to browse B. This attack is out of reach for individuals, but some nation states have the capacity to do so.

As MIT associate professor Nickolai Zeldovich, whose group created Vuvuzela, said: “Tor operates under the assumption that there’s not a global adversary that’s paying attention to every single link in the world. Maybe these days this is not a good assumption.”


Anonymity through obscurity. Guy Mayer, CC BY-NC-ND

Hiding activity as well as metadata

To overcome Tor’s shortcomings, other anonymising software approaches have been proposed, such as Riposte from Stanford University and Dissent from Yale. While they fix Tor’s flaws, they are not able to support the sort of usage and number of concurrent users that Tor can, which limits their usefulness.

Vuvuzela is both immune to traffic analysis and other forms of attack, and can support a large number of simultaneous active users. Like Tor, Vuvuzela works by encrypting as much metadata as possible, but (like its namesake) it also adds a lot of noise – fake messages with which to confuse attackers. As they are indistinguishable from genuine messages, this drowns out patterns of genuine communication that might otherwise compromise a user’s anonymity.

Unlike Tor, Vuvuzela sends its communication in fixed rounds. Clients cannot send and receive messages at any time, instead on each round a user can only send and receive one message. This obscures the precise timing of messages between sender and receiver, keeping this detail from attackers.

Another difference is how the messages travel. Tor messages pass from sender to receiver in a sequence of hops, while Vuvuzela uses a dead-drop system, where the sender leaves the message at a randomly chosen memory location on one of the Vuvuzela servers, and during a later round the recipient picks up the message.

All messages sent by Vuvuzela messages are the same size, achieved by splitting messages that are too large and padding messages that are too small. This prevents attackers from using message size to compromise anonymity by giving away clues as to what sort of communication is being sent.

As a result, Vuvuzela is the first anonymising privacy system that is resistant to large-scale network traffic analysis attacks, and which can also sustain millions of active users sending tens of thousands of messages per second.

MIT’s software is brand new and still experimental, and cannot yet be considered as a replacement for Tor. It hasn’t yet undergone extensive testing through attacks aimed at its theoretical design, and implementation. Crucially, unlike Tor Vuvuzela cannot yet be used for convenient web browsing, nor is it suitable for real-time chat as it is currently quite slow. However, it holds a lot of promise, and may evolve into a viable Tor successor in the future.

Jump in SA shift to online shopping

Despite fears of credit card fraud as a significant barrier to e-commerce, data from The Foschini Group (TFG) shows that more people are migrating to online shopping.

“We are seeing online stores outperforming the top offline stores, particularly @home which is trading as the number 1 store in the country, outperforming even the furniture stores,” Brent Curry, TFG chief information officer, told Fin24.

A recent survey by Ipsos showed that 22% of South Africans have made online purchases, but crime has turned many from online platforms.

That matches an eBucks Rewards survey, which found that 21% of South Africans are electing to do shopping online, up from 14% in 2014 and 10% in 2013.

Fraud fear

“One of the big barriers to entry in terms of the South African consumer is the fear of using their credit card online,” said Robyn Cooke, TFG head of eCommerce. The company recently partnered with Naspers-owned [JSE:NPN] PayU to build a payment gateway for the online platform that has resulted in a decline in fraud.

“PayU solves this problem as it is familiar, reliable and gives our users the sense of security they need. It’s easy, it’s safe, it works,” Cooke said.The company also paid R2.6bn for an 85% stake in UK-based retailer Phase Eight, which has a strong focus on e-commerce.Globally, e-commerce is expected to shift toward mobile devices as they have proved more convenient for shoppers.Juniper Research reports that mobile e-commerce sales amounted to $1.5trn in 2013, and are projected to hit over $3.2trn by 2017.PayU predicted a strategy of collaboration of physical and online stores to meet consumer demand.“In addition to the increased transactions across our various clients, we are seeing a transition toward a fusion of brick-and-mortar and online strategies targeting improved customer engagement,” said PayU MEA chief executive Mustapha Zaouini. – Fin24

Absa brings voice biometrics for phone banking

Absa is the second South African bank to deploy voice biometrics or recognition service to analyse and verify private banking clients based on their speech patterns and allows them to execute phone banking transactions through the bank’s call centre in a secure, smarter and quick manner.

Absa Bank informed its private banking clients on its website that “a new way to bank is here. New voice-activated account technology”.

It added: “The secure voice biometric technology means accessing your account has become faster (no lengthy call with consultants), smarter (authenticates your identity using the biometrics in your voice (voiceprint) to access your account) and safer (no need for passwords and you deal directly with your account).”

Earlier this year, Investec Private Bank was the first local bank to introduce voice biometrics to revolutionise South Africa’s banking industry.

In essence, a voice biometric system captures the unique characteristics of a client’s voice and creates an individual voiceprint. When a client contacts the organisation, the voice biometric technology will authenticate the client within seconds. It does this by comparing the client’s voice with the saved voiceprint and if there is an exact match the voice biometric technology grants access to the account.

However, if the voice print doesn’t match – in cases where there are disturbances from voice overlays or white noise – the telephone banker will still have the option of using traditional knowledge-based verification techniques to verify the identity of the caller.

Absa Bank said it was pleased to announce that identity verification using voice biometrics is now available to its customers through Private Assist.

“This service will enhance your security and offer you a seamless banking-by-phone experience. Currently, Private Banking clients have to answer security questions to confirm their identity when phoning us, which is time-consuming and could lead to frustration,” Absa said in a note to its private banking clients.

Voice biometrics is an automated customer authentication process that requires no effort on the customer’s part. The voice biometric system authenticate clients’ voice against his/her recorded voiceprint, enabling the bank to serve its clients without asking multiple security questions.

Voice biometric technology is similar to fingerprint and retina-scanning technology, and is equally secure. It is also a trusted way of authenticating the identity of a person using a remote verbal communication device such as a telephone.

As an Absa private banking client, the days of answering questions (like for example, “What is your cellphone number?” to verify your identity before accessing a bank account may soon be gone forever.

The voice biometric industry is poised to experience phenomenal growth: in 2013 the global sector generated more than $165m in revenue, which is estimated to rise to $308m by end of 2015 and as much as $421m in 2016, according to a recent study by Opus Research.

MTN, Vodacom warn on billing scam

Scammers are trying to steal cash from prepaid subscribers, claiming that people have used a massive amount of data on smartphones. By Duncan Alfreds, NewsAgency

Some Fin24 users on prepaid mobile service have received phone calls from people claiming to represent Vodacom or MTN, and demanding payment for data bundles exceeding R2 500.

But it is likely a scam.

“We wish to put it on record that Vodacom will never call or SMS prepaid subscribers to demand ‘outstanding payments’ as prepaid customers use the service they’ve already paid for in advance,” Tshepo Ramodibe, Vodacom executive head of corporate affairs, told Fin24.

The scammers put pressure of mobile subscribers to provide banking details or make payments and send proof of payment to fax numbers.

“Should a customer suspect irregular activity, they should alert our MTN Customer Operations via our contact centre straight away. We also reiterate to our customers that they should not give out their personal documents or details such as bank accounts and ID numbers,” said Ike Dube, general manager of Business Risk Management at MTN SA.

Ramodibe said that the holiday season is a growth period for criminals intent on exploiting people.

Theft opens a door

“It is a common occurrence that during this time of the year, syndicates devise multiple scams to siphon funds from unsuspecting customers. As part of our customer education drive on this issue, we always instruct our customers that the golden rule is that if something seems too good to be true, or seems suspicious, then people need to be on their guard.”

Theft of cellphones can also leave subscribers vulnerable to exploitation.

“If a device is lost or stolen, the user must immediately report it to the police and contact MTN straight away, to allow us to deactivate the SIM – this will ensure that the SIM cannot be fraudulently used where you as a customer are left with a massive bill to settle months later, in light of the fact that the SIM was still being used,” said Dube.

Mobile operators do not monitor content of SMSes, making blocking malicious messages difficult, said Ramodibe.

“We can’t monitor the content of all SMSes that are carried on the network – the same way that the Post Office can’t check your mail to make sure it’s okay before they deliver it. What we can do is to block any numbers that spam or scams originate from.”

Apps to help

Scammers are likely to exploit people who are new to smartphones. You can take measures to help protect yourself from crooks by downloading specific apps.

Truecaller is able to identify mobile numbers of people calling you and block specific as well as unknown numbers. Mr Number also blocks unwanted calls and SMSes, while ACR is able to record phone calls on smartphones. – Fin24

ShowMax vouchers available at Pick n Pay

Vouchers good for one, three and six month subscriptions to ShowMax have gone on sale at selected Pick n Pay stores in South Africa. This development has the dual benefit of making it possible to give ShowMax subscriptions as a gift, and also enables those without a credit card to access the service.

ShowMax subscription vouchers have gone on sale at selected Pick n Pay stores in South Africa. Priced at R99, R297, and R594, these vouchers give one, three, or six months’ access to the ShowMax internet video streaming service with Africa’s largest catalogue of TV series and movies.

ShowMax gift vouchers add another payment method on top of the current options of using a credit card, PayPal, or via FNB’s eBucks Shop.

Importantly, because the vouchers can be purchased with cash, this opens up access to the service to people who don’t have or don’t wish to use a credit card.

“It’s been a race against time since we launched ShowMax back in August to get these gift vouchers into stores in time for the festive season, and I’m thrilled we made it. If you’ve got someone hard to buy for this has to be the perfect gift, not to mention also being a great stocking-filler,” said Chris Savides, the Head of Payments and Partnerships at ShowMax.

“South Africa isn’t the same as the US and or UK, and we’ve received the message loud and clear over the past few months that people would like payment options that don’t involve using a credit card. It’s one more step in making sure that ShowMax is tailored to the specific needs of South Africans.”