Bank customers who have made large cash withdrawals, or who are en-route to make cash deposits at banks in the Eastern Cape are being systematically targeted and robbed in increasing numbers.
This was the warning from the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) during a joint press conference held with the SA Police Service in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
“While the banks do not necessarily suffer financial losses as a result of these robberies, the upward crime trend is of concern to the banks especially given that it is often accompanied by violence,” said SABRIC Senior Manager: Information, Dr Alice Maree.
According to SABRIC records perpetrators were armed with firearms in almost all of the incidents.
“We appeal to bank customers to refrain from carrying large sums of cash and in so doing minimise their exposure to the risk of these attacks,” said Maree.
Maree said organised groups of perpetrators were responsible for these crimes and designated ‘spotters’ that look-out for people making cash withdrawals or deposits.
Once the victims have been identified, the information is passed-on to members of the group, usually in the vicinity of the bank, who will then rob the individual, either at their place of business, home or en route to their destination. The cash robberies affect anyone carrying significant amounts of cash on their person.
SABRIC has also recorded an increase of 53% (24 incidents) of robberies of bank clients before and after cash withdrawals between January and August 2012 when comparing with figures of 2011. The total cash lost by bank clients during these attacks also increased.
Maree said approximately 75% of incidents of cash robberies of bank clients in the Eastern Cape happened after cash withdrawals, and most between 9am and 10am in the mornings on a Thursday or Friday.
The awareness of bank customers and the application of safe banking practices by customers are central to the mitigation of the risk of being victim to such robberies.
“It appears that bank clients mistakenly associate this type of robbery with businesses only, but we are aware of incidents perpetrated against other bank customers. We further advise the public to consider alternative methods of banking and to consult their bank to find out about other available options.”
Maree said the perpetrators were known to commit such robberies across provincial borders, which was why SABRIC and the banks worked closely to support the South African Police Service in bringing them to book.
“We also acknowledge other stakeholders like BACSA and CGCSA in their efforts in partnering with SABRIC to combat this crime type,” she said.
The public is also encouraged to report suspicious activities to their local police stations or anonymously through the Crime Line Tip-Off Number 32211.