Fraud awareness tips - Shopping safely online

By Emmanuel Allottey

Digital adoption is rapidly expanding in Africa and with this comes increased risk associated with fraud. The coronavirus pandemic has channelled activity online in the wake of government-imposed lockdowns and other measures imposed to mitigate the impact of the virus. Internet service providers have played a major role in the acceleration digital adoption by reducing their fees associated with internet usage. This also means fraudsters and cybercriminals have increased opportunity to take advantage of the increased usage of social media and other online platforms.

At the height of the coronavirus, Google reported that it was blocking an average of 18 million phishing emails related to COVID-19 phishing scams in a day. Shopping online is a convenient way to find great deals and save money and time if you avoid unsafe websites and fraudsters.

What to look out for when shopping online:

Secure websites: a closed padlock image will appear in the address bar at the start of the address. This will inform you that the site is secure before you log on or fill your personal or banking details.

Odd ways of paying: a fake site may ask you to pay by direct bank transfer or wire transfer or unconventional means. Examine the details of the beneficiary you’re making a payment to. If things go wrong, it may be harder to recover the funds.

Amazing deals and discounts: if the prices on the site are a lot lower than other sellers, it could be a scam. Remain vigilant and don’t be distracted by the proposed discount.

Spelling mistakes: fake sites spell words differently to convince an individual to believe they are on a well know website. Always, cross check how brands and other key logo, identification features are spelt on a website.

How to protect yourself:

Use and anti-virus: install an antivirus on all your devices and keep it up to date. Remember to scan for viruses at least once a week and follow its recommendation if it tells you when a site is unsafe to visit, or a file is unsafe to open.

Keep track of what you buy: check your bank account after you perform a transaction to ensure there are no unknown transactions or payments. If you identify anything suspicious report it immediately to your financial services provider.

The rapid spread of the internet across Africa has downsides, always remain vigilant when shopping online to protect yourself from cybercriminals.

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