Digital Fraudsters in South Africa Shift Focus from Financial Services to Gambling, Travel and Leisure and other Industries

As the prevalence of digital fraud attempts on businesses and consumers continues to rise, TransUnion’s (NYSE: TRU) newest quarterly analysis found that fraudsters in South Africa are re-focusing their efforts from financial services to the gambling, travel and leisure and communities industries.

Across all industries, the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts[1] rose 16.5% globally when comparing Q2 2021 to Q2 2020. Gaming, and travel and leisure were the two most impacted industries globally for the suspected digital fraud attempt rate, rising 393.0% and 155.9% respectively when comparing the two periods. For transactions coming from South Africa, the overall percentage of digital fraud attempts decreased by 12.3% during the same time period – but the online gambling industry saw a massive 922.7% increase in the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts, and the travel and leisure industry a 264.2% spike.

TransUnion monitors digital fraud attempts reported by businesses in varied industries such as gambling, financial services, healthcare, insurance, retail and travel and leisure, among others. The conclusions are based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps contained in its flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite – TransUnion TruValidate™.

“It is quite common for fraudsters to shift their focus every few months from one industry to another,” said Shai Cohen, senior vice president of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion. “Fraudsters tend to seek out industries that may be seeing an immense growth in transactions. This quarter, as countries began to open up more from their COVID-19 lockdowns and travel and other leisure activities became more mainstream, fraudsters clearly made this industry a top target. The immense growth in gambling fraud also can be attributed to the shifts in focus of fraudsters as this growing market becomes a larger target.”

An example of the sudden shift in focus of fraudsters can be seen in financial services. Global financial services online fraud attempt rates had risen 149% when comparing the first four months of 2021 and the last four months of 2020. But when comparing Q2 2021 and Q2 2020, the rate of suspected online financial services fraud attempts rose at a much lower rate of 18.8% globally, and actually decreased by 54.6% coming from South Africa.

Industry Year-over-Year Suspected Digital Fraud Attempt Rate Increases and Declines in Q2 2021 Coming from South Africa


Suspected Fraud Percentage Change

Top Type of Fraud

Largest Percentage Increases



Policy/License Agreement Violations

Communities (online dating, etc)


Profile Misrepresentation

Travel & Leisure


Credit Card Fraud

Largest Percentage Declines



True Identity Theft



Inappropriate Content

Financial Services


True Identity Theft

More than one-third of consumers continue to be targeted by COVID-19 related digital fraud

As online fraud attempts against businesses continue to escalate worldwide, one in three consumers stated that they have been targeted by a digital fraud scheme related to COVID-19 during the second quarter of 2021. TransUnion’s Consumer Pulse study in June 2021 found that approximately 36% of global survey respondents said they were targeted by fraudsters in COVID-19 related digital schemes. In South Africa, just over two in five respondents (41%) said they were targeted.

Phishing is the No. 1 type of COVID-19 related digital fraud impacting global consumers in Q2 2021. Among global consumers who say they were targeted with COVID-19-related digital fraud, 33% state they have been targeted by or fallen victim to such fraud. Stolen credit card or fraudulent charges was the second most cited type of COVID-19 related online fraud among those targeted, affecting global consumers at 24%. Fake insurance scams were No. 1 in South Africa, at 27%, followed by unemployment scams at 25%, third-party seller scams on legitimate websites (24%) and phishing (22%).

“One in three people globally have been targeted by or fallen victim to digital fraud during the pandemic, placing even more pressure on businesses to ensure their customers are confident in transacting with them,” said Lee Naik, chief executive officer at TransUnion Africa. “As fraudsters continue to target consumers, it’s incumbent on businesses to do all that they can to ensure their customers have an appropriate level of security to trust their transaction is safe all while having a friction-right experience to avoid shopping cart abandonment.”

[1] The percent or rate of suspected or risky fraudulent digital transaction attempts are based on those that TransUnion customers receiving TruValidate services have either denied or reviewed due to fraudulent indicators compared to all transactions it assessed for fraud.