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How Can Consumers Stay Secure from the Language of Fraud ?

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Over-confidence is leaving consumers in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (CEMEA) at risk of becoming victims of fraud, according to Visa’s latest Stay Secure study. STAY SECURE_Infographic no flag

Research across 17 countries revealed a disconnect between consumers’ confidence in recognizing fraud and their online behavior, highlighting the importance of staying alert and mindful of fraud attempts. Despite more than half of consumers (56%) claiming to be savvy enough to sidestep online and phone scams, 90% are likely to disregard the warning signs that suggest online criminal activity.

With October designated as Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the study forms part of Visa’s Stay Secure Campaign, focused on raising consumer awareness, strengthening education, and building confidence to combat social engineering threats. The campaign aims to pave the way for a secure and seamless digital payments experience. Through this initiative, Visa provides educational content, including videos, infographics, and tips designed to equip consumers with the knowledge and skills to recognize and prevent fraud.

According to the Study, confidence in the ability to spot a scam, and the vulnerability it may bring, is highest in countries like Qatar (69%), Kenya (65%), South Africa (65%), Saudi Arabia (64%), and Nigeria (63%). The Study also found that most adults in Kenya (74%), Nigeria (72%), and South Africa (64%) report having been the victim of a scam or fraud. However, those in Tunisia (43%) and Morocco (33%) are the least likely to report this.

In today’s digital-first world, scams are evolving in sophistication, with criminals using new approaches to trick unsuspecting consumers. Whether it’s a parcel held up at customs, a streaming subscription claiming to have expired, or a free voucher for a favorite brand, scammers are adopting persuasive tactics to deceive. Understanding the language of fraud is increasingly essential, and our Visa Stay Secure educational platform provides the knowledge and skills to help stay ahead of fraudulent activity online,” explains Irene Auma, Head of Risk for Sub-Saharan Africa at Visa.

Key Findings of the Visa Stay Secure Study:

  • The knowledge gap. Considering themselves knowledgeable might make people even more vulnerable, as false confidence can propel someone to click on a fake link or respond to a scam offer. Those who consider themselves more knowledgeable are more likely to respond to a requested action from scammers compared to those who say they are less knowledgeable, including positive news (74% to 67%) or urgent action (65% to 55%).
  • Concern for the vulnerability of others. While respondents feel confident in their own vigilance, over half (52%) are concerned that their friends or families will fall for a scam email offering a free gift card or product from an online shopping site. Over a third (36%) of respondents are concerned about children or minors, as well as retired people falling prey to online scams.
  • What makes people suspicious. In addition to notices involving orders, product offers, or feedback, people are most suspicious of password requests. Less suspicious types of communications are updates regarding delivery or shipping (just 42% listed as a top three source of suspicion), marketing communications regarding a sale or new product offering (41%), or an invitation to provide feedback on a recent experience (37%) – all of which can be used by scammers.
  • Overlooking telltale signs. Only 57% reported looking to ensure communications are sent from a valid email address, while 52% will check if the company name or logo was attached to the message. Fewer than half of correspondents look for an order number (45%) or an account number (43%). Only 33% look to ensure words are spelt correctly.

Decoding The Language of Fraud

Scammers try different approaches to craft messages that appear genuine and compel recipients to take immediate action. Visa’s Stay Secure Study identifies scam language patterns and highlights respondents’ vulnerability in surveyed countries.

  • Orchestrating Urgency: Cybercriminals create urgency to prompt action; 40% are tricked by security risk messages, and 36% by government notices.
  • Sharing Positive News: 71% respond to positive hooks, like “free gift” or “you’ve been selected.” Gen Z is more likely to act on giveaways (39%) than government notices (31%), while 44% respond to financial opportunities.
  • Action Required: 60% would respond to action-required phrases, though respondents are most suspicious of requests to reset their password.

Spot The Signs: Education and Awareness to Catch Scams in Action

Consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including understanding the language scammers use.

Simple but effective best practices:

  • Keep personal account information to yourself.
  • Don’t click on links before verifying that they’ll take you where they say they will.
  • Regularly check purchase alerts, which provide near real-time notification by text message or email of purchases made with your account.
  • Call the number on corporate websites or your credit/debit card if unsure of communication validity.
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