Visa study showcases how we can protect ourselves from scammers

Visa latest Stay Secure study has indicated that over-confidence is leaving consumers in Kenya at risk of becoming victims of fraud. Research across 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) revealed a disconnect between consumers’ confidence in recognizing fraud and their online behavior, highlighting the importance of staying alert and mindful of fraud attempts.

Despite more than half of consumers (65% vs 56% global average) claiming to be savvy enough to sidestep online and phone scams, 90% are likely to disregard the warning signs that suggest online criminal activity. On average millennials and Gen Zers are least likely to respond to a requested action by a scammer in a text message or email, 38% and
42% respectively, whilst boomers respond to 2 in 3 such requests (67%).

The study forms Visa Stay Secure Campaign, focused on raising consumer awareness, strengthening education, and building confidence to combat social engineering threats. The campaign aims to pave the way for a secure and seamless digital payments experience. Through this initiative, Visa provides educational content, including videos, infographics, and tips designed to equip consumers with the knowledge and skills to recognize and prevent fraud. Nearly three-quarters of Kenyans (74%) surveyed have been a victim of a scam at least once in their life and are most concerned that their family or friends will fall victim to a fake recruiter on career networking or job sites (75%) or investment scams promising financial gain (67%).

“In today’s digital-first world, scams are evolving in sophistication, with criminals using new approaches to trick unsuspecting consumers. Whether it’s a parcel held up at customs, a streaming subscription claiming to have expired, or a free voucher for a favorite brand, scammers are adopting persuasive tactics to deceive. Understanding the language of fraud is increasingly essential, and our Visa Stay Secure educational platform provides the knowledge and skills to help stay ahead of fraudulent activity online,” explains Eva Ngigi-Sarwari, Acting General Manager for East Africa and Country Manager for Kenya at Visa.

Key Findings of the Visa Stay Secure Study:

  • The knowledge gap. Considering themselves knowledgeable might make people even more vulnerable, as false confidence can propel someone to click on a fake link or respond to a scam offer. Those who consider themselves more knowledgeable are more likely to respond to a requested action from scammers compared to those who say they are less knowledgeable, including positive news (72% to 70% for Kenya vs. global 74% to 67%) or urgent action (78% to 64% for Kenya vs. global 74% to 67%).
  • Concern for the vulnerability of others. While respondents feel confident in their own vigilance, over half (63% vs 52% globally) are concerned that their friends or families will fall for a scam email offering a free gift card or product from an online shopping site. Around 27% (compared to 36% globally) of respondents are concerned about children or minors, as well as retired people (29%) falling prey to online scams. Kenyans in a relationship are very or extremely concerned about their partner falling for a scam (83%).
  • What makes people suspicious. In addition to notices involving orders, product offers, or feedback, people are most suspicious of password requests. Less suspicious types of communications are updates regarding delivery or shipping (just 38% listed as a top three source of suspicion vs 42% globally), marketing communications regarding a sale or new product offering (39% vs 41% globally), or an invitation to provide feedback on a recent experience (32% vs 37% globally) – all of which can be used by scammers. The study indicates that confidence in the ability to spot a scam, and the vulnerability it may bring, is highest in countries like Qatar (69%), Kenya (65%), South Africa (65%), Saudi Arabia (64%), and Nigeria (63%).
  • Overlooking telltale signs. Whilst only 57% globally reported looking to ensure communications are sent from a valid email address, 77% of Kenyans do. 65% (vs 52% globally) will check if the company name or logo was attached to the message. Fewer than half of correspondents look for an order number (48% vs 45% globally) with just over half looking for an account number (51% vs 43% globally). Only 29% (vs 33% globally) look to ensure words are spelt correctly.

Decoding The Language of Fraud

Scammers try different approaches to craft messages that appear genuine and compel recipients to take immediate action. The Visa Stay Secure Study identified prevalent patterns in the language most associated with scams – and how vulnerable respondents in the surveyed countries are.

  • Orchestrating Urgency: Cybercriminals often feign urgency to spur people into action, such as clicking a link or responding to a sender. Over half (58% vs 40% globally) of respondents will fall for messages about a security risk, such as a stolen password or a data breach, while a notice from a government entity or law enforcement can trick 47% (compared to 36% globally).
  • Sharing Positive News: 72% (compared to 71% globally) of respondents would take action if a message had a positive hook, like “free gift,” “you’ve been selected,” or “you’re a winner.” Gen Zers are more likely to act on a financial opportunity (65% vs 45% globally) than a notice from the government (45% vs 31% globally), while 35% (compared to 26% globally) of respondents would click on a link or reply to a message that referenced a KYC (Know Your Customer) verification update.
  • Action Required: 78% (compared to 60% globally) would respond to action-required phrases, though respondents are most suspicious of requests to reset their password.

Spot The Signs: Education and Awareness to Catch Scams in Action

Consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including understanding the language scammers use.

Simple but effective best practices:

  • Keep personal account information to yourself.
  • Don’t click on links before verifying that they’ll take you where they say they will.
  • Regularly check purchase alerts, which provide near real-time notification by text message or email of purchases made with your account.
  • Call the number on corporate websites or the back of your credit and debit cards if you are unsure if a communication is valid.