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The Financial Intelligence Unit is sounding the alarm over the explosion of cases of fraud and online scams in Mauritius. Its latest report, published in May, highlights a worrying increase in these malicious practices which affect both individuals and businesses.

Social networks have become the favorite terrain of fraudsters who take advantage of the reach and anonymity of these platforms to deceive their victims. This is one of the observations noted by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in its latest report published last May. She notes that advance fee scams are among the most common modes of operation. In this type of fraud, victims are promised goods or services in exchange for advance payment, but never receive what they were promised.

Other techniques, just as pernicious, are also used. These include the use of false documents to obtain financial benefits, compromise of business emails to steal sensitive information or misappropriate funds, as well as investment scams involving Mauritian entities, which profit of their international exposure to hide their illegal activities.

The most recent case of large-scale online fraud dates back to November 2023, when a group of victims of an alleged Ponzi scheme on the Telegram platform went to the Central Barracks to report a scam orchestrated by the administrators of a group offering financial investments. The plaintiffs mentioned a sum of Rs 150 million.

According to lawyer Penny Hack, the increase in cases of online scams and fraud is mainly explained by the country's difficult economic context, which complicates the situation for many Mauritians. “People are so desperate that as soon as they see an opportunity online, they take it. It’s people’s naivety that leads them to this,” he says. The lawyer believes that, from a legal point of view, the authorities have little room for maneuver. According to him, the majority of these online fraud networks do not operate under Mauritian jurisdiction, thus making their dismantling very difficult.

On the other hand, he emphasizes, raising awareness among social network users is crucial to preventing online scams. “It is necessary to raise awareness and regularly warn the public,” he maintains. He insists that authorities like the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) should make significant efforts to inform Mauritians about the dangers of social media scams. “Rather than constantly devoting its resources to tracking down those who post unfavorable comments, the ICTA should focus on awareness campaigns, because this is where the real work to be done to protect Mauritians lies,” adds the 'lawyer.

According to lawyer Ashok Radhakisson, if the ICTA did its job properly, it would be more aware of the seriousness of the situation. He says it is ICTA's responsibility to keep informed of what is happening on the ground, particularly on social media. Ashok Radhakisson recalls that this authority has all the necessary tools to accomplish this task. He highlights that ICTA works in close collaboration with CERT Mauritius, which makes it inconceivable that it ignores ongoing developments.

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