Since the advent of the internet, there has been an exponential surge in e-commerce crimes and cyber scams. The virtual landscape offers anonymity and insulates syndicate groups from apprehension, allowing them to operate with ease. With the burgeoning of online applications and social media, we find ourselves constantly engaging with cyber interfaces to complete transactions and exchange information. This paradigmatic shift in day-to-day affairs is commensurate to the accelerated rates of cyber crimes and fraudulent scams. The global pandemic has enlivened this playing field for scammers.
The Straits Times reported a record 1.3 million dollars in scam-related losses based on claims and reports filed in the early months of 2020. The global pandemic backdrop and the distress induced chaos proved an ideal scavenging ground for scammers. Utilising open Internet marketplaces, the scammers created fake accounts with stocks of critical resources such as masks and face shields only to disappear without a trace after payment was fulfilled.
Yet another common type of scam involved the creation of imitation proxy accounts to engage individuals and request for personal information such as banking details, NRIC details, address in order to siphon funds, collect information and extort. Social media platforms are the predominant resource of information, from photographs to contact information, for scammers to acquire and manipulate in order to extract funds and gain access to private assets. The increase of such incidents during the pandemic is again unsurprising, with a recession afoot and inequity at a new high.
Last, but certainly not least, credit scams were also observed to have risen, with customised mass messages inviting individuals to take-up bank loans with local banks. Without knowledge of how banks operate, individuals in crisis situations tend to look to adverts, such as these, as lifelines to tide them through such volatile times. Victims, however, are left entangled with unlicensed money-lenders or ensnared into signing guarantees for loans from unlicensed lenders. This is not including impersonators, who target vulnerable members of our community and prey on their lack of awareness.
While scammers have and will continue to innovate, it is incumbent on members of public to remain vigilant and keep abreast of such incidents. Here are some quick tips to retain before you engage in e-commerce or electronic exchanges:
1. Verify the authenticity of the website. Many proxy servers exist and links to those websites are readily available within the earlier search returns on popular search engines. Such proxy websites serve to siphon personal information and utilise it to attack personal funds and assets. Ensure the URL is official and is not punctuated with other characters.
2. If you receive messages claiming to be from official banks or institutions, contact the institutions directly and verify the information you were presented with.
3. If you receive calls from personnel claiming to be representatives from organisations i.e. SPF, do not panic. Do not reveal sensitive information about yourself over the call. This is not official protocol. Instead, request for the caller’s information and direct the call to the official SPF hotline.
4. Ensure you keep sensitive information private. Do not publish photos, videos and information about your banking details, address, contact details.
5. Research online retail interfaces before engaging in any transactions.
JMS ROGERS offers personalised dispute resolution and recovery services. While fraudulent transactions and personnel continue to operate uninhibited, we remain steadfast in our objective to assist and recover broken promises.
Remember, stay vigilant.