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A Cyber Attack’s Emotional Toll Is More Impactful Than Financial Loss Reveals KnowBe4

KnowBe4, the security awareness firm has published its latest ‘2023 Online Scams and Victims in Africa Report’ identifying the most prominent cyber attacks across eight countries in Africa. Forty per cent of respondents admitted to falling for a scam of some kind, with over 50 per cent of these victims feeling a significant or very significant psychological impact as a result.

The KnowBe4 research was conducted across South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius and Botswana and heard from 800 respondents. The report not only dives into the different types of fraud but it also analyses how the victims felt following the scams. Only six per cent said they didn’t feel anything, while 41 per cent felt naive, 40 per cent angry and 39 per cent embarrassed.

The results show many of the respondents blame themselves for the fraud attacks. For some victims, this is a result of being distracted or multi-tasking. In fact, 43 per cent stated they were not paying full attention when falling for the scam.

Exploring this, Anna Collard, SVP content strategy and evangelist at KnowBe4 AFRICA, said: “This figure highlights how easy it is for a person to make a mistake when they are not paying attention. Their emotional states can affect a person’s judgment, awareness, and decision-making, causing them to be more vulnerable to online deception.

“While respondents were aware of scams and understood the risks, many still said they did not feel prepared. This highlights the need for regular training that gives people continuous awareness of scams and the threat they pose. Not only to themselves but their organisations too.”

Emotional recovery takes longer than financial recovery

The emotional toll of falling for an online scam may be more harmful than the money lost.

Collard says that the statistics reveal a more evolved and sophisticated network of scammers who use emerging technology to lure people into costly mistakes. Thirty per cent lost between $100 and $1,000. Meanwhile, forty per cent lost around $100, and nine per cent more than $1,000.

For most victims, the financial consequences were not severe. Twenty-four per cent said it took them several months to recover. Meanwhile, 10 per cent said it took more than a year. However, the majority had no repercussions or recovered in a few days to a few weeks.

Emotionally though, recovery took much longer. The majority said it took them a few months (22 per cent) and 11 per cent said it took more than a year to recover from the psychological impact.

The types of scams

KnowBe4 respondents highlighted financial scams as the most prominent type of attack across all eight countries. Specifically, forty-eight per cent said they were impacted by theft. Investment and crypto scams were the second most impactful with each type of fraud affecting 31 per cent of respondents. The report highlights that information theft (passwords etc.) impacted 29 per cent, job scams 25 per cent, shopping scams 22 per cent and information scams 19 per cent.

The report also discovered how fraudsters were getting to the respondents. One in four (25 per cent) said the initial contact was made over email. Meanwhile, 19 per cent said it was made over social media and 10 per cent said over WhatsApp. As a result of these attacks, 36 per cent of respondents said they’d lost trust.

KnowBe4 looked at how individual countries were being impacted by fraud. In Nigeria, social media was the most used platform for scams (32 per cent). Meanwhile, in South Africa, email was the dominant method (28%).

The scammers often used social engineering techniques to convince their victims. For example, creating rapport or trust by making websites look legitimate. According to the report, 53 per cent marked this as a reason for trusting the initial contact. Scammers also sent messages that appealed to emotions, using social media profiles that seemed authentic, and avoiding spelling or grammar mistakes.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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