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Pyramid and Ponzi Schemes on the Internet and Social Media

The economic downturn has led to job losses, resulting in individuals falling victim to pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes...

The economic downturn and number of employees losing their jobs has culminated in a number of individuals falling victim to pyramid or money multiplication schemes and Ponzi schemes. The traditional structure, means of communication and recruitment of individuals to these financial pitfalls has however been to be increasingly proliferating through online and social media in attempts to lure more individuals into a debt trap and ensure the original creators thereof are afforded a degree of anonymity. Consumers facing large amounts of debt, financial stress and unexpected expenses are most vulnerable, whereas social media provides a false sense of security, prompting trust in the members of personal online social networks.

Did You Know?

The South African Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) distinguishes between a Ponzi and pyramid scheme as follows: the latter refers to a fraudulent scheme in which participants invest in an identified and well-marketed enterprise that offers quick and unusually high returns. The scheme is unsustainable as funds are not invested but used to support the illusion of an investment scheme. Pyramid schemes on the other hand is based on the same foundation, but it incorporates disbursements to early investors make it appear as a worthwhile initiative.

In an active attempt to recruit and allure to a wider audience, creators of Ponzi and money multiplication schemes is instrumental in casting its net to a wider and younger audience through the means of utilising social media, the World Wide Web and cryptocurrency investment initiatives. According to findings, this trend renders millennials increasingly susceptible to fraudulent schemes that propagate under the likeliness of offering solutions to debt, online employment opportunities, investments or business opportunities.

During June 2020, the South African Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued a warning of a Ponzi-style scheme operating on the WhatsApp instant messaging platform and is being perpetrated against investment company Alumni Energy Investments Limited. The scam further offered its investors immediate returns within 24 hours and illegally used the identity of Alumni Chief Executive Officer, Shakes Motsilili to mislead victims by misappropriating the scheme’s authenticity.

On the other end of the spectrum, WhatsApp stokvels were noted to be proliferating as early as 2019. A stokvel is a widely used South African tradition, but this modern version involves individuals being recruited to join a WhatsApp group chat by paying a joining fee. The average joining fee is R200, with the promise of around R1 000 return if the target recruits two additional individuals into joining the stokvel. However, once a number of individuals buy into the initiative, the administrator of the WhatsApp group chat blocks the group resulting in no participant being able to make further contact or enquire about their invested funds.

How to Avoid Falling Victim to Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes

South Africa is resident to numerous of investment companies and portfolios available, but due to depreciating economic circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic, economic and investment pressure is sure to be mounting on top of proliferating uncertainty. A reputable and independent financial adviser will always play an important role in explaining investment opportunities and ensuring that their clients are protected from schemes.

Pointers To Look Out For

In the interim, several pointers to look out for when considering a new or additional investment include the following:

Do not be fooled: an investment that requires an individual in recruiting additional investors in order to realise a return on investment is a pyramid scheme by any other name. Always be aware of tiered investments that classify investors or comprise of multiple levels (bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond).
If it is not immediately clear how an investment product generates its returns and there are no clear underlying assets, the potential investor should immediately be cautious.
Fraudsters are masterful in creating a sense of urgency to limit the amount of time the potential investor would alternatively spend researching and thinking about the potential investment. Anything sold as an “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” should be avoided.
Stray from discussing financial problems on social media platforms. Social media is rife with the weird, the wrong and the wicked. Trawlers are known to frequent social media platforms in active attempts in profiling individuals that are suffering financially. The opposite is also true, do not discuss financial windfalls or flaunt royalties or commodities on social media.
If the investment is not registered with a recognised and authorised financial body, such as the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, it is not regulated. Contact financial institutions or your nearest bank to verify the registration of any financial entity that is relatively new or not well established.
The proverb is universal: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Ponzi Schemes: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
COVID-19 has an impact on the safety, security and livelihoods of users. In a time where financial sustainability is uncertain, let us stay informed and protect ourselves. Be part of #FearlessFriday with CSI and stay connected as we will be addressing various topics every week.

Certificate in Cyber Security

Course Details

This practical, hands-on course focuses on establishing a foundation in Cyber Security by introducing candidates to cyber-crime, attack methods, and managing cyber risks.

Mode of Offering: The course is presented via facilitated    e-learning, utilising an e-learning platform and virtual classes.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for individuals embarking on a career in Cyber Security or performing security functions.

Requirements

Applicants should have a Matric certificate or equivalent qualification with suitable IT knowledge, Internet access, and a PC or laptop on which applications can be installed and services accessed.

Costs:

R10,500 all inclusive

Duration:

6-months

Intake:

Applications are accepted throughout the year, with course starting dates in February, May, and August.

Course Overview:
Cyber-crime‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎
  • Introduction to cyber-crime
  • Cyber-attack methods (e.g., ransomware, sextortion, email fraud)
  • Cyber criminology (actors behind the attacks, criminal networks, state-sponsored entities, etc.)
  • Tracing the online trail
  • Dark web (criminal forums)
  • Case studies of attacks in SA & Global.
  • Crime-as-a-Service
  • Internet of (Criminal) Things.
Practical Cryptography
  • Introduction to cryptography.
  • Encryption and Decryption.
  • Hash functions
  • Blockchain
  • Virtual Currencies
  • Digital signatures
  • Digital certificates
  • Cryptographic Protocols (SSL, SSH, etc.)
Course Overview:
Cyber Governance, Risk & Compliance
  • Overview of cyber governance, risk, and compliance
  • POPIA & GDPR
  • Data Privacy
  • Policies in action
  • NIST, ISO27001
  • Controls
  • Planning for contingencies
  • Developing the security program
  • Risk analysis and management
Cyber Intelligence‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎
  • Introduction to Cyber Intelligence
  • Attack Tools
  • Attack process
  • Reconnaissance and Footprinting
  • OSINT services and tools
  • Threat and vulnerability feeds and assessments

Cyber Investigations

Course Details

This course is suitable for investigators and investigation teams within the corporate environment and public sectors who are required to track online trails or utilise tools to solve online crimes. It is also intended for professionals and investigative journalists involved in investigations such as fraud, espionage, data theft, and cyber vetting.

Mode of Offering: The course is presented via facilitated    e-learning, utilising an e-learning platform and virtual classes.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for investigation officers, cyber-crime investigators, investigative journalists, etc.

Requirements

Applicants should have a Matric certificate or equivalent qualification. Although a formal IT qualification or certification is not required, some knowledge of computer systems would be beneficial. Internet access and a PC or laptop on which applications can be installed and services accessed are required.

Costs:

R10,500 all inclusive

Duration:

6-months

Intake:

Applications are accepted throughout the year, with course starting dates in February, May, and August.

Course Overview:
  • Reconnaissance
  • Online services and tools
  • Metadata Encryption & Decryption
  • Digital signatures
  • Online investigations
  • Crime Scene Management
  • Documenting evidence
  • Investigation Process
  • Chain of Evidence
  • Protocols and emails
  • URLs & DNS information
  • Timelines
  • Decryption and deciphering
  • Virtual Currencies
  • Cyber criminology
  • Introduction to the attack process
  • Introduction to attack vectors
  • Social networks (i.e., attacks via Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Dark and hidden web
  • Threat actors
  • Data Collection
  • Social Media
  • OSINT
  • HUMINT
  • SOCMINT

Cyber Intelligence

Course Details

The main objective is to equip delegates with the necessary competencies and practical skills to assist in compiling an intelligence-driven cyber security strategy to provide proactive solutions to a plethora of cyber threats.

Mode of Offering: The course is presented via facilitated        e-learning, utilising an e-learning platform and virtual classes.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for persons responsible for the security function, CISOs, as well as Data Protection Officers.

Requirements

Applicants should have a Matric certificate or equivalent qualification. Although a formal IT qualification or certification is not required, some knowledge of computer systems would be beneficial. Internet access and a PC or laptop on which applications can be installed and services accessed are required.

Costs:

R10,500 all inclusive

Duration:

6-months

Intake:

Applications are accepted throughout the year, with course starting dates in February, May, and August.

Course Overview:
  • Cyber Security Environment
  • Cyber Landscape
  • Cyber Threats and Exploits
  • Cyber Actors and Criminology Aspects
  • Obtaining Data
  • Sources of Data
  • Collection Operations
  • Applications, Tools, and Services
  • Analysis of Cybercriminals’ Modus Operandi
  • Analysis Techniques (Data to Information)
  • Indicators of Compromise
  • Cyber Intelligence
  • Intelligence Platforms, Applications, and Services
  • Data – Information – Intelligence
  • Intelligence Strategy
  • Incident Management
  • Cyber Warfare
  • Political and Commercial
  • Developing an Intelligence-Driven Strategy
  • Strategic and Tactical Intelligence Function
  • Risk Management

Cyber Governance

Course Details

Establishing a security strategy and defining a suitable implementation plan focused on managing cyber risks in a volatile and dynamic environment requires a solid understanding of the threat space and frameworks. This course unpacks cyber governance and approaches to manage risk and adhere to compliance regulations.

Mode of Offering: The course is presented via facilitated    e-learning, utilising an e-learning platform and virtual classes.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for Managers and C-Suites responsible for security, Board members, as well as prospective leaders in the Cyber Security space.

Requirements

Applicants should have a Matric certificate or equivalent qualification. Although a formal IT qualification or certification is not required, some knowledge of computer systems would be beneficial. Internet access and a PC or laptop on which applications can be installed and services accessed are required.

Costs:

R10,500 all inclusive

Duration:

6-months

Intake:

Applications are accepted throughout the year, with course starting dates in February, May, and August.

Course Overview:
  • Security Management Program
  • Cyber-crime
  • Threat Environment
  • Cyber Criminology
  • Regulations – GDPR, POPI, Electronic Act, PCI-DSS
  • Skills Frameworks
  • Cyber Awareness Programs
  • Risk management
  • Controls – Choice, Implementation, and Management
  • Security Frameworks and Models
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Data Protection
  • The road to ISO 27001 Compliance and Certification

IT and Cyber Security Program

Course Details

Our courses combine essentials from both industry and academia to provide valid, unique, practical content that is innovatively presented via facilitated e-learning.

The IT and Cyber Security Program is a practical course consisting of coursework, virtual classes, and practical cyber range exercises.

Mode of Offering: Learning will be conducted through a facilitated online format, utilising an e-learning platform to provide an interactive and engaging educational experience. Additionally, hands-on practical sessions and virtual labs will be conducted every Friday from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, offering participants the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in a real-world context. This blend of online facilitated learning and scheduled virtual sessions aims to create a comprehensive and dynamic learning environment, ensuring a well-rounded educational experience for participants.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for school leavers, those on a gap year, graduates looking to add industry credentials, and individuals looking to make a career change.

Requirements

Applicants should have a Matric certificate or equivalent qualification. Internet access and a PC or laptop on which applications can be installed and services accessed are required.

Costs:

R 31,350 all inclusive

Duration:

10-months

Intake:

24 February 2024

Course Overview:
IT Foundation for Cyber Security
  • IT Hardware Fundamentals
  • Network Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Operating Systems (Windows and Linux) 
  • Introduction to Cloud Computing (Office 365 and MS Azure) 
  • Protocols 
  • Technical Research and Writing
  • Algorithms and Problem Solving
  • File and Database Systems
  • Scripting
  • New Technologies: AI and Quantum Computing
  • Soft Skills
Certificate in Cyber Security
  • Cyber Security Fundamentals 
  • The Cybercrime Eco-System
  • Actors in Cyber Space – State and Non-State Actors
  • Cyber Incidents: Attacks, Breaches, and Espionage
  • Understanding Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) using the Mitre Attack Framework
  • Cryptography (Symmetric/Asymmetric/Hashes)
  • Secure Protocols
  • Reconnaissance and OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence)
  • Cyber Security Frameworks and Standards: Introduction to the NIST CS Framework and ISO 27000 Series
  • Cyber Risk Management, Cyber Governance, and the Implementation of Security Controls
Facilitated online course with virtual classes, and practical training and skills development on the cyber range platform.