July 26, 2011

The South African economy is still struggling like most other economies, but private investigators say their business is actually doing quite well. One of the factors supporting the PI business in South Africa is the demand for background checks on individuals and businesses. A closer look at the demand for background checks reveals another problem growing in the nation.

Phishing attacks and email spam is up, and more and more of it is coming from South Africa, according to officials familiar with the investigations in Johannesburg. This doesn’t mean that South Africa is alone. In fact the FBI and Interpol both report that scams and internet fraud and phishing emails and spam is a problem in every country, and continue to be a threat to internet users. Stopping these criminals is a high priority with no easy solution, so far.

South African consumers are exposed to more phishing attacks because it is the only Sub Saharan country with a developed online banking service. Other countries do not offer full online banking services and most of the population lacks bank accounts in many countries in Africa. Criminals in East Africa have used mobile phone-based tricks in which subscribers receive fake messages informing them that they have won money and are asked to transfer a certain amount via the phone as a "processing fee." South Africa has become the target as well as the creator of many online scams types. As a result, South Africans themselves are no demanding background checks, as well having background checks done on them, like no other African nation.

South Africa background checks conducted by professional private investigators can be highly effective. In Nigeria, the scams started with the infamous "419", promising millions left behind by people, or scams involving lucrative oil contracts and inheritance. With the access of mobile devices to internet, criminals take advantage of this new element as their connections are very difficult to trace. Most of them use phone numbers from other parts of the region close to South Africa and make it nearly impossible for the authorities to be traced. Demand for background checks has shown just how serious the problem as gotten, as private investigators report nearly a 100% growth in background check demand in the past two years. Investigation companies say most of the demand is coming from online dating as well as business due diligence. What is clear, however, is that increasingly South Africans and foreigners are now aware of the risk.

Nigeria scams are one of the culprits targeting South African residents, say investigators in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the crime has evolved just as fast as its birth rate. Law enforcement and courts are corrupt here, and one of the problems is the inability of most GSM operators to create unique profiles for their users. Most of the GSM customers are prepaid and unidentifiable, and it’s the perfect place to conduct fraud and scams from, with little risk of being identified. Criminals from neighboring West Africa countries agree and share similar advantages. Education about the risks is key to prevention.

In the meantime, contact a South Africa private investigator to verify relationships, whether personal or business, to minimize your risk in Africa. Know the facts and be informed.

All the best,

S. Birch
© 2011 S. Birch

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