By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone- Botswana police have indicated that there is marked increase in cases of crime involving the Internet, in which businesses in Botswana have been swindled of money through the use of the Internet or social media.
Botswana Police Service spokesperson, Near Bagali, said of late their offices countrywide have been inundated with reports of companies and individuals swindled of their money through cyber-facilitated crimes.
He said the cyber-related crimes range from suspected criminals hijacking on-going business transactions to divert payments into cybercriminals’ accounts.
According to Bagali, the criminals send an email to the customer using the supplier’s compromised email account or an email, which looks similar to a legitimate email account, to inform them about the change of bank account to the account controlled by the cybercriminals.
They also have company invoice templates (forged). “They also monitor legitimate operations, especially procurements as they are advertised, forge legitimate company logos and addresses and part of the email addresses. Local companies, in turn, look for suppliers from outside the country. However, these suppliers seem to have links with the fraudsters,” he said.
Bagali advised business owners to scrutinise a tender advertisement that they receive through email and also verify with the procuring company through the known contact numbers.
“Companies should not use numbers attached to the document they receive in their email invitations to tender and they should not make payments to a new bank account without verifying with their supplier through known contact information,” he said.
In another related incident of cybercrime, Bagali said, unsuspecting locals were promised grants from external funders and are made to pay some fees to facilitate their grants.
“These Facebook accounts are found to be originating from outside the country,” said Bagali.
He also bemoaned an increase in “social media romance scams”.
“This is targeting mostly women who are made to believe that they have found some new relationship through the social networking websites. Going forward with the relationship, they are promised presents from overseas which include clothing, laptops, smartphones, etc,” he said.
Bagali added that these “presents never arrive but instead the victims (women) are told that they have been held at the customs somewhere in the world and they have to pay some fees for the release of their parcels.
This becomes an ongoing back and forth trade whereby more money is always demanded from the gullible victim.
Some take time to realise that they have been scammed because they are always promised better lives overseas.”
Speaking at the Botswana Police Service senior officers’ 46th annual conference recently, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said there is a need to capacitate the police service to fight the proliferation of the increasingly complex cybercrimes, which continue to pose serious threats to domestic and global security.
Masisi said it was against such a backdrop that government would continue to review and amend all relevant statutes to enhance the ease of conducting business by the police.