A poll conducted by consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion shows that digital fraud remains an issue in South Africa at a time when consumers are financially desperate.
Trans Union’s data pointed to scammers who continue to prey on financial vulnerability caused by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The group’s data shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers (61%) said their household income has decreased due to the pandemic. Consumers in this predicament said they were concerned about their ability to pay their bills and loans (87%). Four in 10 (41%) of all consumers surveyed reported being in arrears for a bill or loan over the past three months.
And within this climate, TransUnion noted that two in five consumers (40%) reported being personally aware of a digital fraud attempt targeted at them in the last three months, while 5% are now a victim to it.
Of consumers aware of a digital fraud attempt targeted at them, 48% said it was from third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites, and 32% stated phishing.
The report also highlighted the most frequent scams targeting the country’s struggling consumers.
TransUnion’s report dovetails that of cybersecurity and antivirus provider Kaspersky, which reported a reduction in the number of phishing attacks recorded and blocked by the firm in South Africa (17% decline) for the first half of this year when compared to the same period in 2020.
While the decline suggests and supports research trends – that cybercriminals have become more targeted, focusing their efforts on advanced persistent threat (APT) campaigns in Africa – the phishing threat is still very prevalent, Kaspersky said.
“This decrease is in line with global trends and supports the decline that Kaspersky research identified happening through the course of last year already. Of course, this does not mean that organisations and consumers can ignore the risk of traditional cybercrime attacks or that phishing, as well as spam, are still not of significant concern across Africa.
“Instead, people need to become even more aware of cybersecurity best practice and remain vigilant to protect their personal and business systems from the risk of compromise,” said Bethwel Opil, enterprise sales manager at Kaspersky in Africa.
For instance, spam constituted almost 30% of email traffic in South Africa in H1 2021. The number of phishing attacks recorded in South Africa for the first half of 2021 exceeded one million at 1,031,006.
“Phishing and spam remain some of the most effective ways of targeting unsuspecting users and gaining access into corporate systems or compromising personal financial and other information that can be used to perpetrate identity theft,” said Opil.
Phishing attacks across the continent have baited unsuspecting victims into handing over bank information, ID numbers, and more. Cybercriminals have become even savvier with their tactics, embracing more sophisticated technology to lure people into clicking on things they should not.
Kaspersky said that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout throughout Africa had given rise to ample opportunity for cybercriminals to carry out several attacks that are hidden in what, at first glance, may appear to be relevant information.
In addition to installing relevant cybersecurity solutions, Kaspersky said that individuals and businesses must consider the following tips to protect themselves against spam email and phishing:
- Use multiple email addresses. One can be for personal correspondence, while another can be used for online shopping or social media.
- Never respond to any spam. Malicious users verify receipt and log responses of active email addresses.
- Check the link before you click – make sure the links start with HTTPS:// and not HTTP://.
- Do not rush or panic react – scammers use such tactics to pressure you into clicking links or opening attachments.
- Keep your browser and operating system software up to date with the latest patches.
- Use anti-spam filters in addition to antivirus and Internet security solutions.
Read: Beware of these property scams in South Africa.