New Visa Study Reveals Overconfidence Contributes to Scam Success

October 3, 2023
Visa Cardholders

By Adedapo Adesanya

A new research from global payments giant, Visa, done across 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) has revealed a disconnect between consumers’ confidence in recognising fraud and their online behaviour, highlighting the importance of staying alert and mindful of fraud attempts.

The study forms Visa’s Stay Secure Campaign, focused on raising consumer awareness, strengthening education, and building confidence to combat social engineering threats.

Despite more than half of consumers (56 per cent) claiming to be savvy enough to sidestep online and phone scams, it was found that 90 per cent were likely to disregard the warning signs that suggest online criminal activity.

As cybercrime persists in an increasingly digital world, Visa has moved to curb this rising threat. The company has invested over $10 billion over the past five years in technology, including to reduce fraud and enhance network security. This includes $500 million on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data infrastructure and has reportedly prevented $27.1 billion in potential fraud.

The campaign aims to pave the way for a secure and seamless digital payment 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.

Some of the key findings in the study point to the existence of a knowledge gap as false confidence can propel someone to click on a fake link or respond to a scam offer. It found that 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 (74 per cent to 67 per cent) or urgent action (65 per cent to 55 per cent).

There is also concern for the vulnerability of others as respondents feel confident in their own vigilance, over half (52 per cent) were concerned that their friends or families will fall for a scam email offering a free gift card or product from an online shopping site, which offers customers ways to buy iTunes gift cards in Nigeria. Over a third (36 per cent) of respondents are concerned about children or minors, as well as retired people falling prey to online scams.

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 42 per cent listed as a top three source of suspicion), marketing communications regarding a sale or new product offering (41 per cent), or an invitation to provide feedback on a recent experience (37 per cent), all of which can be used by scammers.

The study also found the case of overlooking telltale signs. Only 57 per cent reported looking to ensure communications are sent from a valid email address, while 52 per cent will check if the company name or logo was attached to the message. Fewer than half of correspondents look for an order number (45 per cent) or an account number (43 per cent). Only 33 per cent look to ensure words are spelt correctly.

The company warned that 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 are respondents in the surveyed countries.

It warned that cybercriminals often feign urgency to spur people into action, such as clicking a link or responding to a sender. Up to 40 per cent 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 36 per cent.

Another method is sharing positive news with 71 per cent of respondents saying they would take action if a message had a positive hook, like “free gift,” “you’ve been selected,” or “you’re a winner.”

The research also found that Gen Zers are more likely to act on a giveaway (39 per cent) than a notice from the government (31 per cent), while 44 per cent of respondents would click on a link or reply to a message that offered a financial opportunity.

There is also the Action Required approach to which 60 per cent said they would respond to action-required phrases, though respondents are most suspicious of requests to reset their password.

Speaking on this, Mr Charles Lobo, Regional Risk Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Visa said, “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 favourite 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,”

Visa warned that consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including understanding the language scammers use. These include, “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; and call the number on corporate websites or the back of your credit and debit cards if you are unsure if a communication is valid.”

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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