Criminals are taking advantage of the fear created by the coronavirus and social distancing rules to defraud and harvest Kenyans private data through cybercrime.
Most Kenyans are now forced to shop or transact online and companies and law enforcement authorities are reporting a spike in online scams, economic crimes, and internet-related fraud.
Kenya, whose cybercrime and fraud rates are ordinarily way above global and continental averages, according to various statistics, has caught on the criminal wave. One of the most common ways identified by the Saturday Nation through which Kenyans are scammed is through “phishing”.
Phishing is a form of cybercrime where targets are contacted by email or text messages by scammers posing as legitimate institutions. When clicked on these links contain apps that have code that is designed to maliciously mine users’ private data including passwords such as their passwords, banking, and credit card details.
Such information may be obtained by asking targets to fill in some forms thinking they are performing legitimate transactions, or unknowingly logging in to websites.
Another scheme is via free internet offers, mobile telco giant Safaricom has denied that it is offering any cash relief to help Kenyans cope with the effects of coronavirus.
This is after subscribers reported receiving text messages relaying the fraudulent information.
“Safaricom PLC will be giving out Sh2,500 to all its users during this corona pandemic to help people while staying at home. Claim your share now,” says one of the fraudulent test messages seen by the Saturday Nation.
Attached to the message is a hyperlink to a website that has since been pulled down.
Cybercriminals are also targeting Kenyans through a website that claims the government will offer them free internet data if they click on it. “All Kenyan citizens are entitled to free 200GB of data to stay at home to counter Covid-19,” says the fraudulent post by the phishing website that is currently doing the rounds on Facebook.
Cybercriminals have perfected these Covid-19 themed phishing schemes and computer malware attacks by providing sweet enticing deals that will persuade users to sign up using their details, circulating on Whatsapp is one such scheme that promises users who sign up a gigabyte of data for free every day while in lockdown. “Get aware of the coronavirus using free Internet provided by the WHO. Get 1GB of data every day till April 30,” it reads. Apart from phishing, cybercriminals are trying to con Kenyans by pretending to offer services or goods online in order to get money out of them.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has warned Kenyans to be vigilant. “Members of the public are warned that criminals are using the Covid-19 pandemic to scam them through the circulation of phishing emails purporting to sell non-existent items and messages that are accompanied by links that purport to offer free goodies like data bundles, money, and airtime, among other things,” said the DCI.
“Messages accompanying such links are enticingly packaged with captivating words meant to prompt potential but unsuspecting victims to click onto them with a promise of getting something declared therein,” said the DCI.