Beware: Online fraudsters on the loose

IT started with a WhatsApp message he received on his phone. It was a job advert for bank clerks at Equity Bank Rwanda. The desperate fresh graduate immediately tried his luck at the opportunity.

IT started with a WhatsApp message he received on his phone. It was a job advert for bank clerks at Equity Bank Rwanda. The desperate fresh graduate immediately tried his luck at the opportunity.

Mutabazi Gakuba updated his CV and within hours, he had submitted his application hoping that luck would soon smile his way.

He applied for the vacancy last month on September 4 and seven days later, on 11th, he got a response from someone claiming to be Equity Bank’s ‘Chief Officer’ telling him that he had been shortlisted for the final interview.

“Hello, following your recent application for the job of bank clerk, it is my pleasure to let you know we have gone through your application and we are satisfied. You deserve a chance…” the email read.

He was then told to choose a date of his choice for an interview via Skype. Something was not right, he thought to himself. It is unusual that the prospective job seeker decides when they should be interviewed. It was at this point that his gut feeling started pointing him to a red flag.

“I set the date and prepared for the interview, it was to be carried out via Skype. I started getting a feeling something was really fishy about the whole setting, but I ignored it. I wanted to try my luck and see how everything would unfold,” he says.

On the exact day of the interview, he was contacted and did the interview. An hour after the ‘interview’ he was informed that he was selected for the job and all he needed before starting work was a certificate from the ‘employer’ at an exorbitant fee.

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This is when it hit him, he was dealing with impostors and to prove his suspicion, Gakuba approached the human resource manager of Equity Bank who confirmed his fears that there was no such thing going on at the bank.

This is an example of the many online fraud related cases that are on the increase.

Cyber security experts warn that online fraud has become rampant and that it could be a result of the scarcity of job opportunities, hence, people resort to scamming as means of survival.

As an IT student, Gakuba advises that if one encounters a similar situation, they should first crosscheck with the respective company to prove if indeed the advert is genuine, especially those that are posted on social media.

How big is the problem?

Statistics from Rwanda National Police indicate that cyber-related crimes constituted 0.36 per cent of the total high impact crimes registered last year.

These crimes included e-mail hacking, electronic money transfer and forged documents, among others.

Police say criminals have taken advantage of facilities availed by information technology and the promotion of IT in the country to commit crime.

Anyone can be a victim

Amy Uwase believes that the ever changing face of fraudsters makes one loose track when trying to understand the tricks they use, that’s why such cases keep on rising.

She shares her experience saying that she was once approached by a woman on Facebook who pretended to be white and being her namesake, they became friends instantly.

“She later told me she was in Africa and wanted to meet me, along the way, she got stranded and wanted me to help her with some cash which I sent without thinking twice, only to call her phone a few hours later and it was off. That’s when I realised that I was conned,” Uwase narrates.

She is now convinced that regardless of the many stories one could have heard about scammers, it cannot stop them from falling victim, hence the need for lots of caution when it comes to cyber fraud.

Bosco Mutanganzwa says online dealings are complicated to handle since one can’t really see, or know, the person on the other end.

He, however, says that with a keen eye and thorough observation of the sources that contact us through online platforms, one can be able to do away with scammers.

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“We shouldn’t be quick to tag along with whichever information we receive, be it via emails or other platforms. At times impostors take advantage of our naivety and want to take our hard-earned money. Everyone should be on the lookout,” he advises.

How to detect scam emails

Jean de Dieu Uwimana, an ICT system auditor, says there is really no specific formula for a person to know that an email is scam. However, he says there are signs that one can look out for.

“When the email is requesting for information that’s meant to be confidential, for example addresses, credit card details, bank accounts, pin numbers, among others, this can be a sign of a highly potential scam,” he warns.

He also says that when the sender is using an email which is obviously from a wrong domain name for example jado@yah0o.co.uk as opposed to jado@yahoo.co.uk, one should think twice when responding to the email.

He warns online users to beware because anyone with the skill and the time can be a scammer.

“And also anyone can be a victim because the fraudsters really take advantage of one’s inexperience and in most cases get away with a lot of money,” he says.

Uwimana is of the view that though the scammers pass through legitimate channels one can find a way of discerning them and blocking them as spam.

“After you have received the first email, you mark it and block it as spam mail. However, it’s not easy to detect before they arrive, that’s why it’s important to be vigilant and not click on just any link you receive or give out information anyhow,” he cautions.

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Jules Mugisha, an IT Specialist, says these scams still get to trap a number of victims even when most people know about them.

For all intents and purposes, these scams have a similar motive which is to entice the victim into giving up their money, he says.

“To get protection from these scams, one should understand what they are, what they look like and how they work. Treating email attachments with caution, installing antivirus software and keeping it up to date and installing a personal firewall can be helpful in detecting and avoiding scam emails,” Mugisha warns.

Police weighs in

Theo Badege, the Police spokesperson says measures are in place to ensure they are ahead of criminals through prevention and sensitising of citizens to know that this mode of crime is present, hence, the need to be alert and keep safe.

Badege adds that sharing tips with citizens on how to be secure online helps in preventing such from happening.

“Hide your password; do not share important documents or things related to data protection,” he warns.

“The other thing is that we ensure effectiveness in detection. We have interventions to protect our cyber space and do early detection, this helps us to be effective in investigations because if we are not alert and ahead, it can be hard to produce evidence in court which is cyber-based,” Badege says.

“We have to possess convincing evidence which is IT based, for example, with cases of pornographic messages, we have to know whose computer was the origin, this we now can do with other stakeholders,” he adds.

Because the cyber space is open and has no borders, Badege says having international cooperation in policing is also vital.

“International cooperation is aided by Interpol, this is very important because we get to know the latest trends used by scammers then we sensitise people about them. We put up new laws that are cyber-related and on our side, we introduce new techniques of investigations which help us to handle the cases,” Badege says.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw