Doesn't it suck to find out you lost your money or valuables to a total stranger you met on the internet?
Whether you paid for an item that never got delivered or divulged your bank or card details to a scammer posing as your bank's staff. Numerous online scamming formats exist, and these fraudsters devise new methods daily.
In fact, online scams are fast becoming a norm in modern-day Africa. According to Interpol's Online Scams Report, the African continent has an internet penetration rate of 28 percent, but that doesn't deter the high rate of cyber crimes going on daily. Africa loses over $500 million of its GDP per annum to online scams ranging from email scams, romance scams, social media scams, malware scams, and the list goes on.
Although, one cannot fully avoid these scams, as online scammers get smarter with their online scamming formats every day. However, telltale signs can help you recognize and avoid being a victim of online scams.
This post will explore the types of online scams prevalent in Africa and, more importantly, signs to help you recognize and avoid them.
How Do Online Scams Work?
An online scam is the use of the internet to commit a crime or fraud that involves stealing information or tricking the victims into parting with their money, properties, or inheritance. Online scams come in different formats, but the end goal of the fraudsters or criminals is to steal people's information or money for personal gains.
These fraudsters contact their victims through calls, emails, texts, or social media platforms asking for their bank, card, or contact details. They can now use this information to access the victims' accounts or sell them to cyber hackers and criminals. Online scams exist in various kinds and formats, including email phishing, job scams, dating scams, etc.
Let's find out the different types of online scams in Africa.
What are the Latest Online Scams To Look out for?
According to Interpol, these are the latest online scams to look out for in Africa. They include:
1. Email Phishing Scams
You may have heard of email phishing scams, but what are they exactly? An email phishing scam is a type of scam where the attacker sends out emails or texts that look like they're from a legitimate source (like your bank, internet provider, or any other service provider).
The email will ask you to click on a link or share your personal information, like your contact details, account details, or login credentials. Once the attacker has this information, they can access your phone or bank accounts; the rest is history.
If you're unsure if an email is legitimate, don't hesitate to contact your service provider or simply delete the text or emails without clicking on any link. Also, be sure never to share your personal information or passwords in an email, even if the email looks legitimate.
2. Malware Scams
Malware scams are when cyber criminals try to infect your computer with malicious software that can steal your data or passwords or even take control of your computer. One of the most common ways to spread malware is through infected email attachments or links.
To protect yourself from malware scams, always be careful what you open and click on, and ensure your antivirus software is up to date.
3. Social Media Scams
Social media scammers use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to lure in potential victims. The scammer will create a fake account and post messages or links that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank, investment company, or shipping company. One popular example is the fast cash and Binomo investment scams on Instagram and Facebook.
On the other hand, these scammers could log in from a stolen phone or compromised account to message close friends of the victim, asking for financial help or ransom. In some cases, they ask for your account and personal details in the guise of sending you money to get into your account.
With that said, beware of any investment or lottery scheme that asks you to deposit money to get it doubled or to claim your wins. Also, always ask for video or voice calls to verify any claim of friends or relatives asking for money via social media platforms. This will scare the scammers away and save you from getting scammed.
4. Tech Support Scams
Have you ever received a call from a bank agent or rep from your network provider asking you to verify some details so they can fix an issue on your account? Some go as far as asking for your card number and pin. These are all scammers and should not be engaged. Your bank or service provider would never email you or call to ask for your personal or card details.
If you have compromised your card or bank details, quickly contact your bank's call center to block your account from unauthorized access or withdrawals until you can safeguard your account.
5. Online Shopping Scams
Regarding online shopping scams in Africa, there are a few different types you need to watch out for. The most common is paying for goods online and getting blocked by the seller/company. Some sellers may not block you but will send substandard products to you or not deliver at all.
In addition, some fraudsters may create an eCommerce site and lure people to shop on them through online ads or massive promos and discounts. Aside from not delivering the ordered products, these fraudsters could also steal your card or personal details and do whatever they wish with them. The best way to avoid online shopping scams is only to use trusted websites. Also, make sure you read the reviews before making a purchase.
6. Investment Scams
Various investment scams exist in Africa- from fake real estate companies to fake microfinance banks. The Ponzi scheme is the most popular investment scam - (a pyramid investment scheme/fraud that basically robs Peter to pay Paul). They could come in the guise of crowdfunded agro farms, forex trading platforms, crypto exchanges, stocks, shares, etc. Most of the time, these companies are only a camouflage. They promise you massive returns and zero risks but settle earlier investors with the later investors' money. The later investors end up losing most or all they invested without returns. Some popular examples include Bitstream Circle Crypto scam, MBA Forex, Racksterli, Ultimate Cycler, MMM, etc.
To avoid investment scams, always do your research before investing any money. Make sure to check the company's registration status with the SEC. Also, beware of investment schemes with no clear business operations that could yield returns.
7. Job Scams
In most job scams, the victim is contacted by a fake recruiter or hiring agency and then asks you to pay some money for various reasons (application fees, background checks, etc.) Some ask you to pay for an exclusive list for a Government job, oil and gas job, bank recruitment, etc.
Be very cautious of any company that demands a dime before you can have a chance to interview or meet the employer. Also, research the company thoroughly before applying. And make sure you're communicating with the recruiters through verified email or phone numbers.
8. Influencer Scams
The hustle and bustle of brand influencing have opened ways for fraudsters to prey on innocent social media users with promises of becoming brand influencers. These scammers send you pictures of fancy 'premium' products and links to supposed legit websites. They want you to model or advertise the products and get a commission when your followers buy with your discount code. Then ask you to pay a little token to get the free products shipped to you.
These are all lies, and the best thing to do is RUN! The pictures are random product pictures that could be gotten from Jumia, Amazon, Etsy, or Ali Baba. And the funny thing is, they sell for ridiculously cheaper prices, even cheaper than the delivery fee they're demanding. Block, delete and report such messages - they are mostly fraudsters and should be avoided like plague.
9. Online Dating Scams
Online dating sites provide a digital means for people to meet their significant others/partners. However, criminals also use dating sites to find vulnerable victims who would do anything to prove their love - including parting with their monies or even inheritance.
A few months ago, Netflix released a documentary about the Tinder swindler. This fraudster goes around dating and scamming different women off their monies with fake promises of love and happy-ever-after. And this is just one out of the millions of dating scams that exist on online dating sites.
Additionally, dating scams exist in diverse formats. Asides from connecting with a scammer who doesn't mind a physical meeting, it could also be a catfish account or even a kidnapper who would demand ransom.
To be safe, do not send money to strangers you meet online. And make sure to meet with your online pal at a public place for the first few meetings, except you already trust them. Remember to ask for their full names, family names, pictures, or anything you could use to check them up to be sure they are real. One rule of thumb is to always ask for a video call. This way, you can verify if the person is who they say they are.
10. Loan Scams
Thanks to the numerous loan sharks in Africa, bogus debts are fast becoming a norm. These scammers call to claim that a friend or relative took a loan from their company and has refused to pay it back. Then, they will ask you to pay to save your friend or relative's name from public disgrace.
Most of the time, these are scammers preying on innocent people. Also, some of these loan companies continue to debit customers' accounts even when the loans have been fully repaid.
How To Spot An Online Scam
While you may not stop fraudsters from hacking your account or choosing you as their victim, these signs can help you recognize several online scams right on time; they include:
1. Fake Social Media Pages
Many scammers use social media platforms to gather unsuspecting users. A good rule of thumb is not to trust anyone who asks for money or tries to convince you about an investment decision. Also, remember to ask for video or voice calls to verify the identity of anyone claiming to be a friend or relative in need.
2. Fake or Unsafe Websites
Always look out for fake and unsafe websites when surfing the net. If a website has too many redirects with different URLs, it is mostly not a legit website, and clicking on any link might be too risky. Also, websites without the 'S' or 🔒 sign are unsafe, and any shared details can be easily compromised.
3. Check Ratings and Reviews
Always do due diligence before paying for goods online. Look out for reviews or ratings from previous customers and users. Chance is, you might find alarming complaints about the business or not. This will help you stay away from scam bombs in the guise of legit businesses.
4. They Sound Too Good To Be True
Any investment platform that promises to make you rich overnight or give a massive return on investment with 'no risk tags' is most likely a scam and should be avoided at all costs. There's no such thing as a risk-free investment. Also, if you have to pay anyone to claim a prize or lottery wins, chances are you're getting scammed.
Other ways to recognize online scams in Africa include:
- Asking for advance payment to shortlist you for an interview or job offer.
- Getting pissed, giving excuses, or refusing to video or voice calls when you question their identity.
- Online friends/relatives who can't recall your last offline discussions.
- Customer support reps call with unverified numbers or ask for your personal account details.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Online Scams?
There are a lot of scams happening online these days. Thousands of people fall victim to online scams in Africa every day. However, the tips below can help you stay safe, and avoid getting scammed online. They include:
- Transact only on verified and safe websites or platforms. And make sure to employ safety measures when sending money online.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited messages or links, and avoid clicking on random links in emails, texts, or even social media messages.
- Use strong passwords for your account and social media profiles to prevent password compromise. And do not share your personal details with strangers or even friends and family unless necessary.
- Make sure to do due diligence on any investment platform, eCommerce site, or online seller you hope to patronize, so you're not caught off-guard.
- Secure your devices with antivirus software. Or use multiple factor authentication for your phone, email, bank, and social media accounts.
- Block your accounts or report cases of stolen phones to your service providers as soon as possible. This will help you secure your accounts in the meantime until you can retrieve your sim card.
Most online scams thrive because the victims are vulnerable or greedy to reap a bounty harvest by sowing so little. It never works for anyone. Therefore, it's best to stay away from promises of getting rich overnight or geng a job without an interview, or just about any promises that seem too good to be true. Finally, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.