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Why we get scammed

Con artists have been plying their trade since time immemorial, but the internet opened the floodgates to a whole new level of swindling. It has allowed fraudsters to take aim at an endless number of victims and at the range of victims that they never could have reached before.

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And with the wide spectrum of our personal information accessed via the internet, everything falls into the scammer’s lap even more easily, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

In one sense, however, old is still gold. The success of an online con, including phishing (the most pervasive of such scams), hinges largely on human psychology. More precisely, it all tends to boil down to how well the con artist can exploit some of the very things that make us human. And those haven’t undergone much change in, well, quite a while.

Instead of crafting special code and laboriously overcoming technical defences, “hacking the human” is generally recognised as the easiest way to steal personal data or money online.

Despite – or perhaps thanks to – some obvious limitations in terms of physical propinquity when it comes to online space, romance scammers can build rapport with victims nearly at (ill) will. As with a genuine online relationship, it won’t probably be love at first sight and the grooming of the “mark” may take quite some time. However, once the “romance” finally blossoms, it’s easy enough to take things to the next level – to part the beguiled from their money.

Several forces shape, or contribute to, a potential victim’s susceptibility to this fraud. For one thing, we flock to dating sites in search of romantic relationships, which may leave us somewhat predisposed to building attachments with other people and to taking for granted the good faith of the prospective partner. Of course, scammers also prey on users of social media where social interaction is often the reason to be there in the first place.

The sense of a perceived bond also leads to some degree of dependence, as does the need for approval from our (apparent) love interest. And when the “soulmate” tugs at our heartstrings with an urgent request to help foot the treatment bill for their child, who suddenly turns out to be hooked up to hospital monitors, is also where our empathy and sympathy really kick in.

Other schemes aim to appeal to our desire for something less noble than everlasting love. All of us have probably been “blessed” with an email that promised a fortune in exchange for what is typically an upfront fee that, when you think about it, seems truly miniscule compared to the “riches” awaiting you. It could take any number of forms, such as a Nigerian prince scam or a lottery scam. However, all of them ultimately seek to take advantage of our desire for enrichment.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably stopped to think at least once about what all those zeroes in the promised money could buy. Arguably, it may not always be easy to think straight when faced with the opportunity to, once and for all, escape the daily schlep. This is doubly true when the offer adds other ingredients to the mix. It will be uniqueness (you, not your neighbour or mother-in-law, received the offer); scarcity (the “supply” is limited); and urgency (the time to act is, well, yesterday).

And, perhaps just as importantly: what if – despite all the red flags urging you to run the other way – the opportunity is genuine, as that nagging feeling tells you?

Complicating things further, if you do succumb, it’s not over for you – and certainly not for the scammer. Instead, you’re likely to face more requests for additional and ever higher “processing fees”, bribes, and so on. You may well find the pleas increasingly difficult to resist, for which you can blame your hardwired reluctance to admit to a bad decision and give up hope, or a cognitive bias known as sunk-cost fallacy. Or, like a hapless gambler, you will continue to “invest” money to recoup your losses. But the house always wins.

The need to “act now or all hell will break loose” is a staple in phishing campaigns, which aim to trick us into divulging login credentials, and in other scams tricking us into installing malware. Knowing that rushing you into acting immediately is likely to cloud your judgment, fraudsters go all out in their attempts to invoke a false sense of urgency.

It’s only natural that we feel compelled to act swiftly: we don’t want anybody to mess with our bank or email accounts, which is exactly what the “alert” or “notification” is likely to be about. The sense of apprehension can be enough to distract us from the warning signs about something being amiss that might otherwise not escape our attention.

We’re mostly conditioned to obey authorities, and it is this respect for, and perceptions of, authority that phishers turn against us in their attacks. They let the presence of authority cues and our adherence to social norms do the heavy lifting for them.

By impersonating police, the taxman or another trusted authority or entity such as a bank, online payments provider or email service provider, the phishers will try to instruct us to act on pain of facing some unwanted, and usually dire, consequences. Like the sense of immediacy, when we’re gripped by fear or panic, our ability to think critically may give way to impulsive actions.

While this (over)confidence can be helpful in many situations, it can also skew the perceptions of our own strengths and weaknesses, leaving us vulnerable in the “knowledge” that “it cannot happen to me”. Ultimately, it may also help explain why some people fall for phishing campaigns, and why they do so repeatedly. Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report recently claimed that “the more phishing emails someone has clicked, the more they are likely to click in the future”.

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TikTok looks for SA talent

The fast-rising short-video platform has launched a #PickMe campaign to discover local stars.

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TikTok, which claims to be the world’s leading destination for short-form videos, launches its first PickMe campaign, an effort to discover creative talents and provide a stage to express themselves in South Africa. Starting March 1, TikTok kicked off a month-long search through participants’ 15-second videos under hashtag #PickMe.

TikTok says it is committed to investing in South Africa and discovering the local talents. The PickMe campaign is supported by its local partners like Huawei, MTV Base and Digify Africa.

Local stars, including comedian and singer Lasizwe and singer Nadia Jaftha, have joined the campaign and called for users to show their talents on TikTok.

There are 5 categories of video shooting in the campaign, namely dance, acting, comedy, singing and cosmetics. Participants need to shoot a 15-second video using TikTok using #PickMe and tag @tiktok_africa to participate in the challenge. The finalists will be selected based on their video performance. The most popular and talented participants will have the chance to win prizes like Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphones, a day at MTV Base, and a once-off-presenter opportunity and attendance at an intensive video production workshop delivered by Digify Africa.

“TikTok has definitely evolved into something that everyone loves and uses. It’s given creators a space to create more unique content and also help the creator gain a whole new kind of fan base, ” says Preven Reddy, Imbewu The Seed TV-star and Megazone radio host who is also a TikTok user.

Says TikTok video creator Mihlali Nxanga: “As a young South African working towards being in the entertainment industry, TikTok has given me the platform to grow my following tremendously. Within 6 months, my fan base has grown by a whopping 90 000, and not only from South Africa, but the whole world. For me, TikTok is not just a content platform, it is a global community.”

The campaign will wrap up on March 31. The list of the finalist will be announced in the app and on official Instagram @tiktok_southafrica. For more information, please visit the TikTok app.

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Rugby fan experience transformed by digital platform

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The South African Rugby Federation has embraced digitalisation as a key enabler of its strategic aspirations. It has worked with Accenture to transform fan engagement for Springbok supporters with the launch of a digital fan platform.

“Digital technology and social media have transformed how modern fans watch, support and engage with their favourite teams,” says SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “To maintain our relevance amid this new market dynamic, and grow our fan base, we’ve acknowledged the vital need to digitally transform our organisation.”

Wayne Hull, managing director for Accenture Digital in Africa, says: “SA Rugby’s ambition to pivot to a more fan-centric strategy requires digital design, content, platforms and insights because modern consumers, including loyal Springbok supporters, engage predominantly via mobile digital channels and expect hyper-personalised experiences.”

Accenture Digital’s development process started with quantitative and qualitative research, which informed the user experience (UX) design guidelines and content strategy for the digital fan engagement platform.

“To know what fans want, we needed to understand the fans themselves,” says Hull. “The Accenture Digital team mined the research data and identified multiple fan ‘personas’, which all have different content consumption, platform functionality and engagement preferences.”

The platform development team focused on three critical elements to meet these requirements – the customer experience (CX), the engagement engine and cloud-based deployment.

“To deliver a memorable and engaging CX, Accenture Digital leveraged leading digital experience software,” says Hull. “The result is a fully integrated and responsive platform that creates seamless, personalised digital fan experiences across SA Rugby’s content, commerce and digital marketing initiatives in a manner that makes fans feel recognised and connected to the players and the game.”

The new platform will serve as the first point of call for any rugby fan who wants to get their data fix with exclusive statistics, analytics and insights. The platform’s content style will include more visual elements – videos and images – with more concise articles that are easier to digest, in accordance with evolving content consumption preferences on mobile screens. This will complement long-form thought leadership and insight pieces. 

In addition, fans will enjoy exclusive access to player-related content, such as behind-the-scenes footage and game and training performance stats. SA Rugby will also benefit from the ability to track comments and mentions via the Sitecore analytics platform Accenture Digital implemented, to respond and engage in the conversations Springbok fans are having on social media about the game, the teams or the players.

To do this, SA Rugby required a consolidated view of the customer. However, data resided in disparate sites across ticketing providers and SA Rugby’s e-commerce and online magazine databases. This information will be consolidated into the CRM system, with multiple integration points available to leverage this data.

The CRM system’s functionality will help to reveal insights such as fan communication preferences and their likes and dislikes, which will place hyper-relevance at the core of SA Rugby’s fan experience and engagement strategy.

 The final element in the platform development was cloud deployment, which allows fans to access the platform from any device that has an internet connection. The platform is hosted within the Microsoft Azure environment, which is stable, secure and fully redundant. It gives SA Rugby the flexibility to manage the platform themselves, with the option to integrate or scale additional functionality down the line.

Based on the outcome, Hull believes that Accenture Digital has successfully reimagined, built and delivered a world-class, modern and mobile-friendly digital fan platform that creates a fun, immersive and engaging experience for fans.

“It’s a major step towards helping SA Rugby realise its ambition to become a fan-centric, forward-looking and nimble organisation, and we look forward to building and developing the platform further with the team as their digital fan engagement requirements evolve,” says Hull

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