Nearly half of the 800 African survey participants have fallen victim to an online scam at least once, losing thousands of dollars in the process and compromising their personal data. This alarming statistic is one of the key findings of the KnowBe4 2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report, which was just released. The report is based on a survey of 800 respondents across eight African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana. According to the report, 53% of the respondents who fell victim, were convinced the offer was legitimate because the website looked real, while nearly 48% of the scams were financial.
“These numbers highlight that online scams have evolved,” says SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA, Anna Collard. “What is concerning is that 43% 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 Collard.
Financial scams were the most common type of online fraud, affecting nearly half of the respondents (50%). 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%). Less frequent but still significant scams included the classic Nigerian scam (17%), family or friend impersonation (18%), law enforcement impersonation (7%), tax fraud (6%), holiday fraud (9%), romance fraud (13%), and lottery fraud (15%).
An email was the preferred channel for scammers 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 scammers often used social engineering techniques to convince their victims, such as creating rapport or trust by making websites look legitimate, sending messages that appealed to emotions, using social media profiles that seemed authentic, and avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes.
Collard says that the statistics reveal a more evolved and sophisticated network of scammers who use emerging technology to lure people into costly mistakes. 30% lost between US$100 and US$1,000, 40% around US$100, and 9% more than US$1,000.
The report also 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 emotional toll of falling for an online scam may be more harmful than the money lost as a result. 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 shows how vulnerable people are to online scams and the emotional distress they cause,” says Collard. “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 organisations.”