Shock findings on digital fraud in South Africa – and the one scam you should avoid

 ·25 Apr 2021

New global research by TransUnion shows that online fraud increased exponentially in South Africa since the Covid-19 pandemic began – comparing March 2020 to March 2021.

In addition, the consumer credit reporting agency’s Global Consumer Pulse Study found that 37% of South African consumers have recently been targeted by Covid-19 related digital fraud.

TransUnion’s findings on fraud against businesses are based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps.

The research found the percentage of suspected fraudulent digital transaction attempts against businesses that originated from South Africa increased by 43.62% when comparing the periods between March 2019, 2020, and 2021.

“Fraudsters are always looking to take advantage of significant world events. The Covid-19 pandemic and its corresponding rapid digital acceleration brought about by lockdowns is a global event unrivalled in the online age,” said Keith Wardell, product director at TransUnion Africa.

“By analysing billions of transactions we screened for fraud indicators over the past year, it has become clear that the war against the virus has also brought about a war against digital fraud.”

In South Africa across industries, TransUnion found the cities with the highest percent of suspected fraudulent digital transactions against businesses coming from them were Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria, in that order.

Consumers targeted by Covid-19 schemes

Provisional findings from TransUnion’s most recent Global Consumer Pulse Study – a survey of more than 10-thousand consumers globally, including 910 in South Africa from 5 – 17 March 2021 – found that the 37% of South African consumers who said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to Covid-19 in the last three months is higher than approximately one year ago.

In April 2020, 25% said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to Covid-19.

Among consumers in South Africa reporting being targeted with digital Covid-19 schemes, the top pandemic-themed scheme is unemployment scams, with 29% saying they were hit with it.

Suspected digital fraud attempt rate post-pandemic declaration

TransUnion said it analysed a range of industries for a change in the percent of suspected digital fraud attempts against them over the earlier mentioned period.

“The pandemic has shifted South African and global consumer habits to shop and entertain online more than ever before, which has also attracted digital fraudsters who have are increasingly targeting related industries,” said Wardell.

“Despite these threats, consumers expect that businesses are able to protect their transactions but still maintain convenient digital experiences.”

“The challenge most business leaders face is the lack of information to reliably and continually assess their company’s vulnerability to corruption and reputational risk,” said George Nicholls, co-founder of Corporate Insights.

“Organisations need to quickly and proactively categorise and rank risks across the entire company, and cut the cost of fraud detection by reducing dependence upon quite often costly traditional solutions.”

“With all these factors contributing to the rise of digital fraud, the war is most certainly not over. Automated lifestyle assessment, using the latest techniques and technologies around advanced analytics, data, information insights and machine learning, enables us to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters,” said Nicholls.

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