TCS+ | Online scams in Africa: how cybercriminals trick victims

Nearly half of 800 African survey participants have fallen victim to an online scam at least once, losing thousands of dollars in the process and compromising their personal data. Alarmingly, more than half (53%) of the respondents who fell victim were convinced the offer was legitimate because the website looked real, while nearly 48% of the scams were financial.
This was revealed in a recent episode of TechCentral’s TCS+, featuring Anna Collard, senior vice president for content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa. It is also worth mentioning that Collard was recently recognised as the Cyber Security Woman of the Year 2023 “People’s Choice” Award in Las Vegas.
Collard, who lives in Cape Town, is a certified business analyst with multiple security certifications, including CISSP, CISA, CIPP/IT, ex PCI DSS QSA, ISO 27001 Implementer, and auditor. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Metaverse for the 2023-2024 term and a board member of the MiDO Cyber Academy Programme, aimed at underserved communities in South Africa to bridge the cyber skills divide.
The conversation with TechCentral’s TCS+ unpacked some alarming statistics, all of which can be found in KnowBe4’s 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa report. Only recently released, the report is based on a survey of 800 respondents across eight African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius and Botswana.
Other key findings included that distraction and multitasking made 43% of the victims fall for an online scam, and that financial scams affected nearly 48% of respondents.
“These numbers highlight that online scams have evolved,” says Collard. “What is concerning is that 43% of the victims were distracted and multitasking when they fell for the scam, which highlights how easy it is for a person to make a mistake when they are not paying attention. Their emotional states can affect a person’s judgment, awareness and decision making, causing them to be more vulnerable to online deception,” says Collard.
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%).
An e-mail was the preferred channel for scammers to initiate contact, accounting for 24% of the cases. Social media came in second with 19%, followed by WhatsApp with 10% and other messaging services like Telegram with 8%. In Nigeria, however, social media was the most used platform for scams (32%), while in South Africa, e-mail was the dominant method (28%).
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 appealed to emotions, using social media profiles that seemed authentic, and avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes.
Collard says that the statistics reveal a more evolved and sophisticated network of scammers who use emerging technology to lure people into costly mistakes. Some 30% lost between US$100 and $1 000, 40% around $100, and 9% more than $1 000.
The report also showed that 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. The results highlight how easy it is for victims to blame themselves, when in reality, they were deceived by cunning scam tactics.
21 Sep English South Africa Technology · Business

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