African Tech Voices: Money transfer scams to beware of in Cameroon in 2023
The rapid growth of mobile money technology has disrupted the financial sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, fuelling social-economic transformation in many countries and the growth has provided considerable benefits to citizens looking to access reliable financial services.
In fact, Africa accounts for 70% of the world’s US$1-trillion mobile money value. In 2021, the value of Africa’s mobile money transactions increased 39% to US$701.4-billion from US$$495-billion in 2020, highlighting the future of banking in the continent as mobile money reduces transaction costs for users and helps households to manage their cash flows more effectively, manage risk and build working capital.
In Cameroon, the rise of mobile money has enabled 98% of the population to be covered by a mobile GSM network (2G and above), accelerating financial inclusion and improving the welfare of low-income households.
However, criminals have also discovered the opportunity this presents and the National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC) reported that cybercrime caused financial losses of 12.2 billion CFA Francs to the Cameroonian economy in 2021, double the losses reported in 2019. These losses were primarily due to scamming, and phishing, a technique used by fraudsters to obtain personal information to perpetrate identity theft amounted to 6 billion CFA Francs.
With these developments, managing security and privacy in a dynamic and vulnerable environment remains crucial.
The top four money transfer scams that Cameroonian residents should look out for include email scams, such as taxation scams, where scammers impersonate the ATO, and online dating scams, where scammers can play on emotional triggers to get you to send money.
In 2021, Interpol’s African Cyberthreat Assessment Report indicated that the highest-reported and most pressing cyber threat in Africa was indeed online scamming.
Additionally, online shopping scams, such as over-payment scams, where scammers ask you to ‘refund’ an over-payment before you realise the credit card has been stolen or a payment receipt is fake, and Facebook impersonation scams, including money flipping scams that promise quick cash if you invest.
We understand many of the tricks and techniques behind some of the most popular scams. We want to educate Cameroonians on what scams look like so that our customers can understand what to avoid and protect themselves from getting scammed.
Always double-check who is asking you to send money, and if you are not comfortable with the transaction, don’t pursue it. Also avoid using third-party intermediaries, or agents who offer to make transactions on your behalf, and if you need to transfer money overseas, once you have checked the recipient, use a trusted money transfer service to ensure that your money does arrive in time.
Tips for avoiding email scams:
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in an unsolicited email.
- Check the sender’s email address matches the website address of the organisation it says it’s from.
- Be wary if the email doesn’t use your name and says something like "Dear customer".
- Avoid emails with a sense of urgency, asking you to act at once.
- Beware of emails with poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited. This includes banking and credit card information, your birth date, and Social Security/ Social Insurance numbers.
- Keep your devices updated with antivirus software to protect yourself from any malware.
Tips to avoid online dating scams:
- Don’t trust those asking for you to share money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
- Use social media channels and online to see whether their dating profile is consistent with their other online profiles.
- As a rule, we advise that you shouldn’t send money to someone unless you have met them in person or via video.
Tips for avoiding online shopping scams:
- Make sure that the website has 'https' in the URL (the extra 's' is for 'secure') and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be unreliable.
- Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you’re not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods.
- Check on the website for a clear refund policy and method of contact should you have a customer query.
- The website should not include an option to use an IMT to make the payment.
Tips for avoiding impersonation scams:
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know and have never met.
- Don’t share your password with others.
- When logging in, use two-factor authentication.
- Avoid connecting to public and free Wi-Fi networks.
- Keep your browser and apps updated.
- Add an added layer of security and use proactive cybersecurity software.