Recent data from cybercrime and fraud investigators TCG Forensics reveals a concerning trend for South Africa, as it emerges as the ‘cybercrime capital’ of Africa, poised to surpass Nigeria in cyber-criminal activity, including the notorious ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams.
Surge in Cybercrime:
The Southern African Fraud Prevention Services reported a staggering 356% increase in impersonation fraud between April 2022 and April 2023, highlighting the alarming rise of cybercrime in the country.
Vulnerabilities and Challenges:
Jackie Smith, Head of Buyers Trust, addresses the vulnerabilities contributing to South Africa’s susceptibility to cybercrime. These factors include economic expansion and the evolving digital landscape, attracting criminals seeking quick financial gains. With cybercrimes easily committed by anyone with access to a cell phone and the internet, the criminals operate confidently, as only about 10% of cybercrimes get reported to the police.
Police Capacity and Organised Crime:
Another key factor is the shortage of police officers equipped with the necessary expertise to combat cybercrimes effectively. As a result, the prosecution and policing of cybercrimes become exceedingly difficult, allowing sophisticated organised crime syndicates to operate with relative ease.
The Property Industry and Cyber Threats:
The property industry has become an attractive target for cybercriminals due to the wealth of valuable personal data involved in daily financial transactions. Cybercrimes in this sector primarily fall into two categories:
1. Data breaches: Property companies handle large volumes of personal and financial data related to buyers, sellers, tenants, and landlords, making them targets for identity theft and financial fraud.
2. Deposit phishing schemes: Fraudsters intercept email communications between buyers and sellers, posing as legitimate agents or conveyancing attorneys to redirect buyers’ deposits to their own accounts.
Sophisticated cybercriminals study language, company letterheads, and transaction types by hacking into attorney or real estate agent firms. This enables them to create phishing emails that appear entirely legitimate, deceiving unsuspecting buyers into losing their hard-earned deposits.
- To safeguard against email phishing scams, individuals should follow these crucial steps:
- Be cautious with email links and attachments, avoiding suspicious sources.
- Double-check email senders’ addresses, being wary of misspellings or slight variations.
- Verify website authenticity with “https://” and a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar.
- Refrain from sharing sensitive information like passwords, identity numbers, or account details through email or unfamiliar websites.
South Africa faces an urgent need to tackle the rising tide of cybercrime. Individuals and industries can better safeguard against these ever-evolving threats by understanding vulnerabilities and taking protective measures.
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Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko