Report reveals Africans are vulnerable to online scams

07 December 2023 - 07:44
By Ernest Mabuza
An email was the preferred channel for scammers to initiate contact, while social media came in second, according to a recent report  on how cybercriminals trick their victims. File photo.
Image: 123RF/welcomia An email was the preferred channel for scammers to initiate contact, while social media came in second, according to a recent report on how cybercriminals trick their victims. File photo.

Nearly half of 800 African survey participants revealed they had fallen victim to an online scam at least once, losing thousands of rand in the process and compromising their personal data. 

This statistic is one of the key findings of the KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, which was released recently.

The report is based on a survey of respondents conducted in June across South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana.

Financial scams affected 48% of respondents who fell victim, with investment scams affecting 30% and crypto scams 29% of respondents. 

Of those scammed, 53% of the respondents were convinced the offer was legitimate because the website looked real. 

These numbers highlight an increasingly sophisticated cyberthreat landscape and that online scams have evolved,” says Anna Collard, senior vice-president: content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa. 

The survey focused on what factors contributed to a person ultimately falling victim to a scam, the types of scams experienced and how it affected victims both financially and psychologically. 

While 40% of respondents have fallen for an online scam, 33% have come across one, 19% have never fallen for a scam, while 8% did not know what it is. 

The report found 43% of victims were distracted and multitasking when they fell for the scam. This figure was higher in Nigeria and South Africa at 53% and 46%, respectively. 

Following closely behind being distracted, 20% of respondents were working when they fell for the scam, 18% were relaxed and happy, nearly 14% were tired, 6% were travelling, and nearly 6% were hungry. 

“The findings, taken from individuals working across multiple industries and in different roles, showed that online scams remain a pernicious and malicious threat that require vigilance and awareness,” the report said. 

Collard says statistics reveal a more evolved and sophisticated network of scammers who use emerging technology and emotive approaches in well-written emails as well as deep fake enabled impersonations on WhatsApp and other messaging apps. to lure people into making costly mistakes.

An email 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, social media (32%) was the primary form of contact for a scam while email leads in South Africa (28%). 

When asked how much money they lost thanks to the scam, 40% of the victims said they lost the equivalent of $100 (R1,898), 30% lost between $100 and $1,000 (R18,986), and nearly 9% lost more than $1,000. 

About 13% told the police, 22% the platform provider, 15% their financial institution, and 36% told a family member or friend. 

“However, nearly 16% felt there was little to be gained from telling the police or the banks and a concerning 15% were too embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened,” the report said. 

Collard said 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.” 

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