50% of Africans have been scammed online
Online scams are a serious threat to millions of people around the world, but especially in Africa, where nearly half of the internet users have fallen victim to some form of online fraud. This is according to a new report by KnowBe4, a leading provider of security awareness training and simulated phishing solutions.
The report, titled KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, is based on a survey of 800 respondents across eight African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana. The report reveals the types of scams that are prevalent in Africa, the methods used by scammers to deceive their victims, the financial and emotional impact of falling for a scam, and the best practices to avoid becoming a victim.
The most common scams in Africa
The report found that financial scams were the most common type of online fraud, affecting nearly half of the respondents (50%). These scams involved tricking people into sending money or revealing their bank details to scammers who posed as legitimate entities or individuals. 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%).
Some of the less frequent but still significant scams included the classic Nigerian scam (17%), where scammers claim to be wealthy individuals who need help transferring money out of their country; family or friend impersonation (18%), where scammers pretend to be someone the victim knows and ask for money or personal information; law enforcement impersonation (7%), where scammers claim to be police or government officials and demand payment or threaten legal action; tax fraud (6%), where scammers claim to be from the tax authority and ask for payment or personal information; holiday fraud (9%), where scammers offer fake travel deals or vouchers; romance fraud (13%), where scammers create fake online profiles and relationships to solicit money or gifts; and lottery fraud (15%), where scammers claim that the victim has won a prize and ask for payment or personal information to claim it.
How scammers deceive their victims
The report also showed how scammers use various techniques to convince their victims that their offers are legitimate. The most common technique was creating websites that looked real, which fooled 53% of the victims. Other techniques included sending messages that appealed to emotions, such as fear, greed, curiosity, or sympathy; using social media profiles that seemed authentic; avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes; and creating rapport or trust with the victim.
The report also revealed that scammers often used email as their preferred channel 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, email was the dominant method (28%).
The impact of falling for a scam
Falling for an online scam can have serious consequences for both the financial and emotional well-being of the victim. The report found that 30% of the victims lost between US$100 and US$1,000, 40% around US$100, and 9% more than US$1,000. 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, 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 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. The survey found that 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 report shows how vulnerable people are to online scams and the emotional distress they cause,” says Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA. “While respondents were aware of scams and understood the risks, they still fell prey to them due to various factors such as distraction, multi-tasking, emotional states, social engineering techniques, and lack of security awareness training.”
How to avoid becoming a victim
The report also provided some useful tips and best practices to help internet users avoid becoming victims of online scams. Some of the recommendations included:
- Always verify the source and legitimacy of any offer or request before taking any action.
- Never click on links or open attachments from unknown or suspicious senders.
- Never share personal or financial information with anyone online, especially if they ask for it unsolicited.
- Never send money or make payments to anyone you do not know or trust, especially if they ask for it urgently or use pressure tactics.
- Always use strong and unique passwords for your online accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Always use a reputable antivirus software and keep it updated.
- Always be cautious and skeptical of any offer or request that seems too good to be true, or that appeals to your emotions or curiosity.
- Always report any suspicious or fraudulent activity to the relevant authorities and platforms.
Collard says that the best way to protect oneself from online scams is to educate oneself and others about the risks and the signs of scams. “We believe that security awareness training is essential for anyone who uses the internet, whether for personal or professional purposes. By learning how to spot and avoid scams, we can reduce the chances of becoming victims and help create a safer and more secure online environment for everyone,” she says.