In the modern era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is not surprising that Malawi has become a global village technologically connected to the rest of the world.
Much as technology has provided Malawians with big data and ease of communication, it has also exacerbated incidents of online fraud.
Online fraud is simply an act of committing a crime using internet or an electronic device for a financial gain.
In this article, an attempt is made to explain most recurring online fraud incidents in Malawi.
1. Sim card swapping
Sim card swap involves the scammers to trick the mobile phone provider to activate a sim card that belongs to someone else.
For instance, in November 2022, two complaints were registered with the Malawi Police Service involving fraudsters who had transferred more than 3 million Kwacha from the bank accounts of two victims after a successful sim card swap.
In 2021, Airtel Malawi and Standard Bank were ordered by a court to pay 120 million Kwacha to Mr. Billy Milimbo after losing tens of millions of kwachas to fraudsters through a sim card swap scheme.
It has become fashionable to spend our hard-earned money on betting in an attempt to make quick money.
In my view, the negligible probability of winning the lotto is a good reason why betting is a form of online fraud.
In fact, betting companies such as Premier Bet and World Star place their hopes on the same concept of probability to make huge profits at the expense of the poor betting Malawians.
Adverse effects of gambling are numerous. In June 2021, a 16-year-old boy, Ipyana (real name withheld) in Karonga committed suicide after losing K22,000 to gambling.
In September 2022, a woman, Tinyade (not real name) in Blantyre also committed suicide after losing one million kwacha to betting.
3. Ponzi scheme
By definition, a ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors.
Recently, a Ponzi scheme company popularly called CDC which opened its offices in Karonga and Balaka has swindled millions of Kwachas from close to 700 Malawians. In fact, it duped its victims that it was dealing with cryptocurrency
It is reported that Adina, the owner of the company ducked all the victims and deleted her official web site. It is so sad that some Malawians borrowed money from banks to invest in this ponzi scheme.
4. Social engineering
In Malawi, electronic fraud has reached unprecedented level such that ven those who are entrusted with public positions have connived with thieves to mutually defraud public funds.
In 2022, at least 21 officials from the Accountant General’s office were arrested by the Fiscal Police over allegations that they were involved in irregular transactions amounting to 283 million Kwacha.
Scammers usually send unsolicited emails to their targets with an aim of harvesting sensitive information from them.
Sometimes fraudsters provide a link in the email pretending to come from a legitimate organisation such as a bank. Once a user clicks on the link, a malicious code may be installed on the target device harvesting sensitive personal information.
It is important to note that phishing is a form of social engineering as it tricks the victims to reveal sensitive information.
Unlike phishing that uses email as a conduit of attack, smishing sends text messages in the form of SMS to trick the victim that the message is coming from a legitimate organisation.
I once received an SMS telling me that I had won a rugby competition when in actual fact I had not entered into any competition. I simply followed them up till they became suspicious of me.
Instead of using email or text messages, a fraudster may call a victim pausing as if he is the legitimate representative of a particular company in an attempt to solicit important personal information.
For instance, there are many registered incidences when fraudsters pretended to be officials from Airtel Malawi and victims were prompted to reveal sensitive personal information. Sadly, many victims lost their Airtel money in this way.
This cyberattack prompts the victims to redirect all the traffic from a legitimate website to the fake website. Usually scammers install malware in the victims device. When the victim opens a legitimate website, all the entered sensitive information will be redirected to the fake website.
9. Corrupt practices under Chakwera and Chilima
Corruption during the Tonse Alliance regime has reached unprecedented levels with President Chakwera and his deputy Saulos Chilima allegedly promoting this cancerous vice.
With the use of technology, Chakwera’s regime has transformed corruption into a business enterprise.
It is only during Chakwera’s regime that laid-down procurement procedures are being bypassed willy-nilly.
The overpriced fertilizer under the controversial K128 billion East Bridge commodity exchange bypassed the formal procurement procedures. Obviously, there is something fishy behind the hood.
Malawi Government has just recovered K600 million out of K750 million it paid to a meat company for the procurement of fertilizer meant for the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP). Another dubious online transaction took place here.
Currently, Saulos Chilima is answering charges of receiving a bribe from a UK-based business magnate, Zunneth Sattar. The Anti Corruption Bureau has records of audio communications between the business tycoon and the Vice President over the bribery allegations.
10. Job offer
The resultant effect of the Tonse Alliance’s failure to offer the promised one million jobs is that fraudsters have ganged up to dupe innocent Malawians by offering non-existent jobs with a requirement of a substantial upfront payment.
Scammers have used social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook to promise desperate jobless young Malawians better employment opportunities.
In conclusion, online fraudulent activities have reached unprecedented level such that Chakwera’s government is requested to expeditiously do something about it.