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Online Scams in Africa: KnowBe4 Report Exposes Cybercriminal Tactics

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Nearly half of the 800 African survey participants have fallen victim to online scams, resulting in financial losses and data compromises. This alarming finding is part of the KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, which surveyed 800 respondents across eight African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana.

Concern for Evolving Nature of Online Scams

According to the report, 53% of victims believed the scams were legitimate because the websites appeared genuine. Additionally, nearly 48% of the scams were financially motivated. Anna Collard, SVP of Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA, expressed concern about the evolving nature of online scams.

Heightened Emotional State Makes you Prone to Deception

She highlighted that 43% of victims were distracted and multi-tasking when they fell for scams, emphasizing the ease with which individuals can make mistakes when not fully attentive. Emotional states can impair judgment and decision-making, making people more susceptible to online deception.

Prevalence of Financial Scams

Financial scams were the most prevalent, affecting 50% of respondents, followed by fake investments (30%), cryptocurrencies and NFTs (29%), brand impersonation (28%), information theft (24%), online shopping (21%), and fake job offers (21%).

Less common 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%).

Most Preferred Contact Channels for Scammers

Email was the preferred contact channel for scammers, accounting for 24% of cases. Social media followed with 19%, then WhatsApp with 10%, and other messaging services like Telegram with 8%. The choice of platform varied by country, with social media being most used in Nigeria (32%) and email in South Africa (28%).

Scammers frequently employ social engineering techniques to create trust, make websites appear legitimate, appeal to emotions, use authentic-looking social media profiles, and avoid spelling or grammar mistakes.

Scammers Leveraging Technology to Deceive People

The report revealed an increasingly sophisticated network of scammers leveraging technology to deceive people into costly mistakes. Of the victims, 30% lost between US$100 and US$1,000, 40% around US$100, and 9% more than US$1,000.

Falling for a scam had a significant psychological impact on victims. While 23% reported little or no effect, nearly 50% felt a strong or moderate impact. Victims experienced negative emotions such as embarrassment (39%), anger (40%), naivety (40%), loss of trust (36%), shame (25%), trauma (20%), vulnerability (25%), anxiety (16%), guilt (15%), and fear (15%).

Emotional Toll of Online Scams

The emotional toll of online scams often exceeded the financial losses. Recovery times varied, with 24% taking several months to recover financially, 10% more than a year, and most recovering within days to weeks. However, psychological recovery took longer, with 22% needing a few months and 11% over a year.

The report underscores the vulnerability of people to online scams and their emotional distress. Although respondents were aware of deceptions and the associated risks, many did not feel adequately prepared, emphasizing the need for ongoing training to maintain awareness of scams and their threats to individuals and organizations.

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