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Consumers must beware of cyber criminals who use new tricks to steal their money.

A new report on online scams shows a survey by KnowBe4 revealed 40% of the respondents from eight countries were scammed online.

The survey found out 43% of the victims were distracted because they were multi-tasking and therefore not paying attention. Financial scams affected nearly 48% of respondents.

The KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, surveyed a population of 800 drawn from South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius and Botswana.

Nearly half of the 800 African survey participants became victims of an online scam at least once, losing thousands of dollars in the process and compromising their personal data.

“These numbers highlight that online scams have evolved,” says Anna Collard, SVP content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa.

“What is concerning is 43% of the victims were distracted and multi-tasking when they fell for the scam, which highlights how easy it is for someone to make a mistake when they do not pay attention.”

She says your emotional state can also affect your judgment, awareness and decision-making, making you more vulnerable to online deception.

Watch out for these tricks from cyber criminals

Financial scams were the most common type of online fraud, affecting nearly half of the respondents (50%). Other prevalent scams involved fake investments (30%), cryptocurrencies and NFTs (29%), brand impersonation (28%), information theft (24%), online shopping (21%) and fake job offers (21%).

Less frequent but still significant scams included the classic Nigerian scam (17%), family or friend impersonation (18%), law enforcement impersonation (7%), tax fraud (6%), holiday fraud (9%), romance fraud (13%) and lottery fraud (15%).

Scammers preferred email to initiate contact, which accounted for 24% of the cases. Social media came in second at 19%, followed by WhatsApp 10% and other messaging services like Telegram 8%.

However, in Nigeria, most of the scammers used social media, while email was the dominant method in South Africa at 28%.

What to watch out for to identify a scam

Collard says the scammers often used social engineering techniques to convince their victims, such as creating rapport or trust by:

  • making websites look legitimate
  • sending messages that appeal to emotions
  • using social media profiles that seem authentic and
  • avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes.

“The statistics reveal a more evolved and sophisticated network of scammers who use emerging technology to lure people into costly mistakes. 30% of the victims lost between US$100 and US$1,000, while 40% lost around US$100 and 9% more than US$1,000.”

The psychological impact of these scams

In addition, the report showed falling for a scam had a significant psychological impact on many victims. While 23% said it had little or no effect on them, nearly 50% felt a strong or moderate impact.

Collard says the results highlight how easy it is for victims to blame themselves, when in reality, they were deceived by cunning scam tactics.

The survey found many victims experienced negative emotions, such as embarrassment (39%), anger (40%), naivety (40%), loss of trust (36%) and shame (25%). Some also felt traumatised (20%), vulnerable and helpless (25%), anxious (16%), and guilty and fearful (15%).

“The emotional toll of falling for an online scam may be more harmful than the money lost as a result. For most victims, the financial consequences were not severe, with 24% saying it took them several months to recover and 10% saying it took more than a year, but the majority had no repercussions or recovered in a few days to a few weeks.”

However, she says, when it came to healing from the psychological impact of the scam, the majority said it took them a few months (22%) and 11% said it took more than a year.

“The report shows how vulnerable people are to online scams and the emotional distress they cause. While respondents were aware of scams and understood the risks, many still said they did not feel prepared, which highlights the need for regular training that gives people continuous awareness of scams and the threat they pose, to themselves and their organisations.”

The Citizen/Ina Opperman 


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