Thu08242017

LAST_UPDATEThu, 24 Aug 2017 9am

Malaysia Is Becoming A Global Hub For Online Scams, Will You Be The Next Victim?

Credit: AlamyCredit: AlamyOften go online? With more people using the Internet these days, the potential of fraud is high especially when your transactions and personal information is stored on cyberspace, you’re most likely to become the next vulnerable victim.

Scammers are always lurking around for easy money, often luring potential victims, and target anyone regardless of background, age and income level. Cyber criminals scam millions of people every year, using tactics which usually catch you off guard, carrying out “tricks” to steal your money, and sometimes your heart too.

According to website onlinefraudguide.com Malaysia is listed among one of the countries/cities/regions that have a high-risk for online fraud. Last year, U.S.-based IT security developer SOPHOS ranked Malaysia as sixth globally in terms of cybercrime threat risks, as the total cybercrime bill topped $300 million (RM1.2 billion).

Nigel Tan, country director of Symantec Malaysia & Thailand also shared in 2014, Malaysia ranked fifth in the Asia Pacific and Japan region for the number of social media scams. 84 per cent of such scams were shared manually, 14 per cent higher than the global average as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by their friends.

With scammers increasingly targeting victims on social media each day, what should Malaysians be wary of and what needs to be done to outsmart these criminals to be less susceptible to becoming victims? CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, gave us more insights to the scams happening online in our country.

Most Popular Scams In Malaysia

Based on the statistics shared by CyberSecurity Malaysia, as generated by My Computer Response Team (MyCERT), the Incident Statistics report in 2015 shows that spam recorded the highest number of incidents at 3,500,while fraud came in second with a total of 2,960 cases.

According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, the most common case involves victims targeted via social networking sites, where scammers usually create profiles portraying him or herself as an attractive Asian woman, luring potential victims, and subsequently inviting them for intimate video chats. This scam called ‘Cyber blackmail’ has become a global issue and victims are asked to pay a ransom ranging from RM500 to RM5,000.

CyberSecurity Malaysia CEO Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab, then enlightened us further about the ‘Cyber blackmail’ and other types of common scams in the country.CyberSecurity CEO Dr. Amirudin Abdul Wahab CyberSecurity CEO Dr. Amirudin Abdul Wahab

“The ‘Cyber blackmail’ scam happens when a scammer first gets close with his or her victim through Facebook and then proceeds with video chatting on Skype.

“The scammer then lures the victim into committing indecent acts like going nude which is then captured and used to blackmail the victim to pay a certain amount of money, otherwise his/her video will be uploaded on YouTube,” he explained.

For some that are hopping on the Internet to look for love, scammers are using fake online profiles with photos of other people and professing their love quickly to steal your money. This is called the ‘Love scam’.

“These scammers target lonely women who are mainly elderly, divorcee or single.

“Victims are lured to trust the scammers who usually sweet talk their way and are wooed by empty promises.

“They then get their victims to wire some amount of money after giving various reasons such as to retrieve items at customs, like wedding gifts, among others.

“Victims are also persuaded for more and more money all through sweet talking until the money has been transferred into their accounts,” he pointed out.

An ecommerce.milo survey in 2014, tells that 91 per cent of online users in Malaysia shop online. 54 per cent of online shoppers in Malaysia shop at least once a month online, and 26 per cent shop once a week.

The report revealed only 9 per cent cited trust as the main reason as to why they don’t shop online. This implies that Malaysians are very trusting when it comes to making purchases online. To this, Amirudin precautioned.

“Fraud purchases is a common case of scamming. Scammers usually advertise some products on social media for purchase.

“But when consumers have placed their orders for their goods and paid for them, they end up not receiving them.

“After realising this, they would attempt to contact the seller to enquire about the goods, but are not able to do so.”

He then continued to share that cyber bullying too is surprisingly considered a common scam, where victims are unaware that their personal information and photos have been shared online, and have been manipulated, often being used to advertise sexual favours.

According to him, “Sometimes, scammers use your personal information and photos taken on social media as blackmail.

“They would put up your information and upload your photos or videos on social media, specifically dating applications, and advertise them as if you are offering sex services.

“The photos and videos taken are also normally edited and uploaded to pornography websites.”

Malaysians Share Their Online Scam Experiences

Md Shah is a 31-year-old graphic designer who was scammed into buying a watch online.

“I was planning to buy a watch on Instagram and I got scammed,” he recounts.

“The seller claimed that the watch was original and it was being sold for a really cheap price, around RM250.

“After I had agreed to buy it, I wired the money to the seller’s bank account and was told that I would receive it within the next few days.

“But after a week or so, I still did not receive the watch, and when I tried to call and message, the seller was unreachable.

“From then on, I knew I got scammed and lost RM250. Since then, whenever I shop online, I would opt for sellers or sites that have the Cash On Delivery (COD) method instead,” he said.

Similarly, 25-year-old human resource worker Izzuddin shared his experience of being scammed via online shopping.

“I wanted to buy an iPhone 5s via mudah.my. After making my deal, I transferred money to the seller's account to make the payment.

"He kept silent after receiving my money and when I tried calling him back, I noticed that he blocked my number.

“I admit that I was too easily trusting with this person. Normally, for online transactions that require a large sum of money I would prefer the COD method, but this seller insisted on posting the phone to me.

"I felt cheated. Because of my trustworthiness, I lost RM1,000,” he regretfully said adding that he later proceeded to make a police report on the incident.

For 35-year-old Adilah, love was truly blind. She starts telling us: “I knew this guy called Jonathan on Facebook, and he looked really nice.”

“Thinking that he’s the real deal, we started chatting, first on Facebook, then we moved on to WhatsApp. I did plan for a meeting but he was always busy.

“I sensed something amiss whenever I asked him to video call me on Skype, he would refuse. He told me he had never used it, or again was too busy to do so.

“The jig is up when he asked for my money. That's when I was really convinced that the man I talked to for almost a month was a con artist,” she lamented.

Prior to her ‘Love scam’ we asked if she was aware of online scammers using romance to steal people’s money: “Yes, I was aware but I never thought that I too, would be a victim of an online scam. I saw the signs but I ignored it.”

Be Very Careful

Now you know the most common scams online, it’s best to be extra cautious and safeguard yourself from these attacks.

According to website Scam Watch, be sure to take into account these measures:

Be alert to the fact that scams exist: When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Know who you're dealing with: If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them.

Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don't use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.

Keep your personal details secure: Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and pin numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure: Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.

Choose your passwords carefully: Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.

Beware of any requests for your details or money: Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.

Be careful when shopping online: Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like bitcoin) - they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it. Learn more about online shopping scams.

And as a final word of advice from Amirudin, “Always be extra cautious especially when involving providing specific personal data and transferring any money.

“It’s also best to do prior research regarding scams. Most scams are already debunked on the Internet.

“If you think you might be a victim of scam, do capture the evidence and kindly report to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further action.

“Lastly, for online users, it is advisable to refer to www.mycert.org.my and www.cybersafe.my to find out more information on awareness, best practises on being online and latest scam alerts.”

 

 --Malaysian Digest