Online scams have been around for practically as long as the internet has existed. Everybody remembers the free iPads, cruises, and hotel visits we won and could claim by just entering our credit card and social security information, seems legitimate right? It didn’t take long for scams like that to get widely recognized and mostly ineffective, but that doesn’t mean that internet scamming has gone away. Oh no, quite the contrary, as the rapid advancement of the internet has only led to more sophisticated and plentiful scams which are way less obvious than the flashy websites of the past. If you thought those were unethical, then the ones of today will just make you sick, like the example of one of the most recent widespread scams happening to plenty of African students looking to study abroad. In the process of applying to study abroad, many African students are required to take certain English tests to meet a requirement for a scholarship. Two of these tests include the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Online International English Proficiency Exam (OIEPE).
Student James Uche details his story in a Quartz article, where he says that he needed to pay $25 (€20.77) to access a test pin to take the OIEPE. But once he entered his information, the pin expired shortly thereafter and he received a payment receipt from Paystack. Uche tried two more times, getting charged the full price for every one, when he finally gained access to the exam. After completion, he eagerly waited for confirmation from the school he was applying to, McMaster University in Canada, but would later find out that “the English test was the culmination of an elaborate scam to collect money from young Africans seeking to study abroad.” He said in an interview that he couldn’t believe that anyone would be capable of sleeping at night knowing they were scamming people in this way, saying he was heartbroken at the news. When asked to comment on the situation, Paystack responded in an email stating “When we became aware of this merchant’s questionable activity, we deactivated their account immediately and are working with their bank to investigate this incident.” This raises questionable red flags not just for anyone looking to use Paystack, but for many other fintech digital payment platforms. The general worldwide consensus is that although it’s a tough competitive race for the top of the industry, cybersecurity is the number one priority. This incident goes to show that those looking to scam are still out there, and just how the industry is advancing, these scammers are getting increasingly smarter with it.