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What Factors Drive Online Fraud?

  by Isaac Thuku  

Online fraud can be defined as any type of fraudulent scheme that uses the internet to conduct illegal transactions to financial institutions or individuals. Computer criminals use online fraud to steal from national and international investors, government agencies, and individuals. Ever since we ventured into the digital era, securities markets have become a prime target for criminals. Services such as the Internet and wire transfer services have helped cyber-criminals manipulate not only local individuals but they can easily cross to international boarders and steal in a matter of seconds.

There are countless fraud schemes nowadays and many people have fallen prey to such criminal offenses. Examples of such schemes are the Nigerian and Canadian scams that have left some individuals bankrupt.




- Cost of theft to United States companies is $259 billion a year

- Cost of global cybercrime is at $114 – 388 billion a year

- More than two-thirds of adults have become victim of computer viruses, malware, phishing, and other online scams

- Sixty-nine percent of global population have already been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime

- Every second, there are approximately 13 new victims of online fraud

  Online fraud can use email, websites, message boards, chat rooms, worms, viruses, and other computer based methods. Some forms of online fraud include;  

1. Internet banking fraud


Internet banking fraud is when online technology is used to illegally remove money from, or transfer it to a different bank account. This can be in form of mobile banking, Mule recruitment, or Phishing

Mobile banking – Many of us now use our computers, tablets and smartphones for banking transactions. Criminals can use scams to defraud you financially or obtain your personal information.

Mule recruitment – This is when criminals use your bank account to receive stolen money and then transfer those funds to criminals overseas. Example: Criminals advertise jobs on websites, in chat rooms, etc. They then recruit you, the “Mule” and provide you with instructions on how and where to forward certain items. You are then promised a payday for job well done – of course your payday never comes.

Phishing – This is where criminals use spam emails pretending to be from a banking institution and gather personal banking details of unsuspecting individuals.


2. Shopping and auction site fraud

  Some criminals disguise themselves as sellers and try to sell unsuspecting individuals fake items. Buying items online does make our lives easier but you should be cautious; be mindful of the websites you visit. It is best to stick to common shopping and auction sites rather than using online auction sites that you are unfamiliar with. Restrain from clicking on links that you do not know as they might lead you to fraudulent sites.  

3. Scams

  Criminals send out millions of fraudulent spam emails in the hope of luring in just one innocent and unsuspecting victim. Spam emails can range from the promise of a huge inheritance to lottery winnings. Victims end up paying large sums of money to cover false costs and fees, due to a promise of large amounts of money coming their way as soon as they pay all required ‘legal’ fees.  

4. Spam

  Spam comes in form of electronic messages such as SMS, MMS, or emails. These messages try to persuade a person to purchase a certain service or product.  

5. Identity theft

  This includes the theft and use of stolen personal information of either a living or dead person to conduct business transactions.  

What Causes People to Commit Online Fraud?

  As new computer technologies become available, online fraud is also becoming more and more common. According to Information Technology security experts, the main reasons why people commit online fraud are pleasure, opportunity, greed, and rationalization. Further studies showed that greed is responsible for approximately 67% of fraud caused in 2015. Other major causes included problems from debts and gambling.  

What Factors Drive Online Fraud?


It is Easy to Remain Anonymous


Computer crime has now become the most widespread criminal activity in the world. There is no one specific reason that leads people to commit these crimes. Criminals who prefer to operate in the electronic world not only vary in age, but also in social and economic status, gender, race, and many more. Some people are driven by greed while others are driven by need.

However, one thing is clear; many computer criminals use online fraud because it is easy for them to be anonymous while using technology. It is easier to hide your identity from others as you hack your way into someone’s bank account, or when you use false information to coerce an innocent person into doing your dirty work for you. It is much easier for someone to get away with criminal activities in cyber world than it is in real world. This form of power and control can be intoxicating to cyber-criminals.


More Opportunity with Lesser Risk


Many cyber criminals would not attempt to rob a bank in real world. However, with new technology and software, it is easier for someone to create a scam and use that to lure unsuspecting individuals into willingly offering up their PIN numbers and other private information. The more time a criminal spends on the Internet, the more they realize that there are greater illegal opportunities available to them. Many of these scams target the older generation as they are not as technologically savvy.

Some criminals also use new software to steal credit-card numbers, Personal Identification Information, and even cell phone codes.


Thrill of Participating in Criminal Activities

  The excitement, fame, and the challenge itself seem to be a great thrill for many computer-criminals to pass up. Many computer-criminals are unaware when they are actually committing a crime. To them, it is mainly the thrill and excitement that makes them commit cybercrime – knowingly or unknowingly.  


  Other people are driven by revenge. Some criminals intentionally use or participate in online fraud to spread malicious computer codes such as viruses, worms, and Trojans just to get back at someone (or a company) that they feel has done them wrong. Online fraud can be used for personal satisfaction of seeing other people suffer.  

Free Reign

  Since computer networks are spread across the entire globe, it is virtually impossible for any government to enforce laws when computer criminals are set up in foreign countries. Because computer criminals do not make their money legally, they tend to look for other alternatives to move and invest their money. This is where regulation of international financial systems is becoming a necessity.  

In order to move illegal money, cyber-criminals incorporate shell companies or use corrupt banking institutions. Studies have shown that billions of dollars of illicit funds are transferred through America’s financial system annually.

The United States law enforcement has been highly vigilant and has caught a lot of people involved in shell company schemes As a result, many criminal have now opted to open offshore bank accounts in countries where security has not caught up, making it harder for officials to disband online fraud.

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