Gone are the days of poorly written phishing emails riddled with spelling errors; today’s cyber threats are sophisticated and convincing.
The proliferation of online scams has reached alarming levels in Kenya and across Africa, with nearly half of the 800 survey participants falling victim to deceitful schemes, resulting in significant financial losses and emotional distress.
According to KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, a survey conducted across Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana, financial scams affected nearly half of the respondents.
The report says that 53 percent of the victims believed the fraudulent offers were legitimate primarily because the websites appeared genuine. Moreover, approximately 48% of the scams had a financial dimension.
“These numbers highlight that online scams have evolved. What is concerning is that 43 percent of the victims were distracted and multi-tasking 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 Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA.
Diverse range of scams
Financial scams took the top spot, affecting nearly half of the respondents or 50 percent. Other prevalent scams included fake investments (30 percent), cryptocurrencies and NFTs at 29 percent.
Scams involving brand impersonation were 28 percent, information theft (24 percent), online shopping (21 percent), and fake job offers (21 percent).
Less frequent but still significant scams included the classic Nigerian scam (17 percent), family or friend impersonation (18 percent), law enforcement impersonation (7 percent), tax fraud (6 percent), holiday fraud (9 percent), romance fraud (13 percent), and lottery fraud (15 percent).
Preferred scam channels
Emails were the preferred channel for scammers to initiate contact, accounting for 24 percent of the cases. Social media followed closely with 19 percent, while WhatsApp and other messaging services like Telegram were used in 10 percent and 8 percent of the cases, respectively.
Notably, in Nigeria, social media emerged as the most used platform for scams (32 percent), whereas in South Africa, email remained the dominant method (28 percent).
Scammers frequently employed social engineering techniques, such as creating trust by designing convincing websites, crafting emotionally appealing messages, using seemingly authentic social media profiles, and maintaining impeccable spelling and grammar.
Financial and psychological impact
The report reveals that falling victim to a scam had a substantial psychological impact on many victims. While 23 percent claimed little or no effect, nearly half reported a strong or moderate impact.
This highlights how victims often blame themselves, although they were deceived by cunning scam tactics. The emotional toll was evident in a range of negative emotions, including embarrassment (39 percent), anger (40 percent), naivety (40 percent), loss of trust (36 percent), shame (25 percent), trauma (20 percent), vulnerability (25 percent), anxiety (16 percent), guilt (15 percent), and fear (15 percent).
Interestingly, the financial consequences were not as severe for most victims, with 24 percent taking several months to recover and 10 percent taking more than a year.
However, when it came to healing from the psychological impact of the scam, the majority required several months (22 percent), and 11 percent said it took more than a year.
The need for training
Anna Collard emphasizes, “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 organizations.”