Vishing, Smishing and Phishing the Leading Types of Fraud in Kenya

New data published by global information and insights provider, TransUnion, in its 2023 State of Omnichannel Fraud Report shows that Vishing, Smishing and Phishing were the top forms of online fraud in the country. 

From the report over four in 10 (42%) Kenyan consumers said they had been targeted by fraud from September to December 2022.

Kenyan consumers were primarily targeted by ‘vishing’ attempts, where they received fraudulent phone calls from scammers trying to get them to reveal personal information.

Vishing has become more prevalent than ‘smishing’ – where fraudulent text messages attempt to trick people into revealing data – with 41% of targeted Kenyans having experienced this type of attempt.

‘Phishing’, where fraudulent emails, websites, and social posts intent on stealing data, was experienced by 36% of surveyed Kenyans.

At the same time, the top types of digital fraud which Kenyan consumers were most worried about differed from the attempts reported, as the biggest Kenyan consumer concerns were phishing (59%), account takeovers and identity theft (both 58%) and third-party seller scams on legitimate online retail websites (57%).

Data in the 2023 State of Omnichannel Fraud Report blends proprietary insights from TransUnion’s global intelligence network and a specially commissioned TransUnion consumer survey in 18 countries and regions globally.

The study showed that globally, 4.6% of all digital transactions were suspected to be fraudulent. This percentage is in line with the rates found in 2019.

However, despite the similarities to the percentage prior to the pandemic, due to the marked rise in number of digital transactions in the last few years, the total volume of all suspected digital fraud attempts has increased dramatically.

Globally, such attempts have increased by 80% from 2019 to 2022.

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Morris Maina, chief executive officer, TransUnion Kenya, said: “We’re seeing a persistently high number of digital fraud attempts, with suspected digital fraud attempts originating from Kenya increasing most notably in the financial services sector, where the rate of attempts has increased by 309% since 2019.

This reflects the overall accelerated adoption of digital technologies and rising online transactions as a result.

“Kenyan businesses need to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their customers. This means ensuring that identity proofing and authentication is up-to-date and as robust as possible.” 

Cyber criminals turn their attention to new industries 

Other Kenyan industries that have seen a rise in digital fraud attempts in comparison to 2021 include gaming, where the rate of attempts emanating from Kenya have increased by 102%, and travel and leisure by 37%.[i]

At the same time, some industries, such as video gaming, retail, and telecommunications, saw a significant drop year-on-year, indicating that cyber criminals have turned their attention elsewhere.

This may be testament to the increasing levels of control that providers are putting in place to help stop fraud and raise awareness of scams, although many people still fall victim to these schemes.

Maina continued: “Rates of digital fraud attempts by sector tend to change rapidly, as fraudsters innovatively shift focus to where there are new opportunities to make financial gain. They will be agile in targeting consumers and organisations as Kenya navigates this recent period of economic uncertainty.

“At TransUnion, we help businesses across a wide range of industries prevent fraud by using intelligent predictive solutions to deliver better experiences – helping to outflank those who would take advantage otherwise and reassure customers that their personal data will not be compromised.”

TransUnion monitors digital fraud attempts reported by businesses in varied industries such as gaming, financial services, healthcare, insurance, retail, and travel and leisure, among others.

The conclusions are based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps contained in TransUnion’s flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite –TruValidate.

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