July 22, 2011

July comes with the news that some internet criminals have been prosecuted and put behind the bars, in the U.K. and now in South Africa. In one South Africa scam case, a police officer was involved in a fraud ring, traced and tracked down by South Africa private investigators who picked up the evidence needed to have the scammer put in jail. Increasingly, due to the recent rise in criminal activity in South Africa, law enforcement and private investigators are advising for South Africa background checks.

The truth is that most of the cases involving the internet are very difficult to prosecute. The main reason is because most criminals are located in different countries from their victims. Along the years, developed countries have been the main target of internet scammers. Americans, Canadians, British and Australians seem to be the best pick for romance scams, investment fraud, advance fee fraud, and other internet scams. Lottery fraud is out, and the new approach is seeking out victims and easy prey on social networking sites and online match-making websites. Small businesses are also the target, where criminals pretend to have attractive business deals, and they use fake websites and documentation to convince their victims. The criminals are quite convincing.

South Africa is the most developed country on the African continent, and yet internet crimes seem to be spiraling out of control here, although not quite as bad as in West Africa, where Ghana and Nigeria are the clear leaders for online criminal activity. In fact, many criminal organizations conducting online fraud and scams in Johannesburg and Cape Town are actually Nigerian nationals and immigrations, say South Africa private investigators. These days, especially on the internet, it can be hard to know who you’re dealing with. Throw in the internet and another country, and the risk is high.

Tracking IP addresses is no longer effective, as criminals often operate from cyber cafes and use IP proxy server to hide their true location. When they are tracked down, having law enforcement make an arrest, and a court making a prosecution is a separate and difficult challenge. In short, prevention is the key ingredient to avoid the mess, and that’s why experts say a background check or due diligence investigation is essential when dealing with individuals and new business contacts in South Africa.

Internet criminals remain hidden in most case. The recent arrests made in South Africa are a very encouraging sign that law enforcement is making some progress, and that perhaps the crime rate could begin to drop. In the meantime, be safe and skeptical. Know the risks, and verify before engaging in business or personal relationships. And as always, never provide personal data or payment to anyone overseas who has not been verified. South Africa successfully beat internet fraud in the past, and most say the bad economy is responsible for the renewed crime way. Time will tell, and we will see history if history repeats itself, and South Africa overcomes this new crime wave.

All the best,

S. Birch
© 2011 S. Birch

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