Cybercriminals prey on the gullibility, greed and generosity of their victims. As more people work or conduct business from home, various syndicates perilously lurk in their midst. Statistics showed a 58.6% increase in cybercrimes in the country for the first six months of 2021 compared to last year.
Dato’ Mohamad Anil Shah, Chairman of Crime Consciousness and Public Safety Society, was talking about the various online scams at a public webinar titled “Avoid Becoming a Victim of Crime”, organised today by WOU’s Centre for Foundation Studies (CFS) and attended by about 80 people.
He said syndicates look at what people browse and post on the Internet, along with their interests, activities and aspirations. He advised the public to exercise due diligence and to be wary of schemes, offers or persons that seem too good to be true.
He explained that phishing is when cybercriminals send emails, with doubtful attachments or links, from what appears to be a known contact or organisation. The victim’s personal data is compromised when he or she opens the attachment with malware installed or clicks the link that directs them to a fake website.
In the Macau scam, he said the criminal pretends to be a senior police officer or a representative from a government department, claiming the victim is involved in a crime. Along the way, the victim is offered a means to settle the case. As for romance or love scams, the cybercriminals profile victims through what they post on social media, such as seeking companionship. “Once you are emotionally involved, they will ask for financial help by saying their business is down,” said Dato’ Mohd Anil. He added that this scam may lead to the sharing of compromising photos, blackmail and even suicide.
He pointed out that the parcel scam involves the syndicate sending notifications that a parcel is stuck in the postal services or customs, and the recipient must pay a cost to get it delivered. He informed that syndicates sometimes purposefully deliver a wrong consignment to your address and later collect it back as a ploy to push illegal items around and avoid detection.
He highlighted how young people can be lured with high-paying jobs or lucrative benefits through social media online jobs, but end up being sex or human trafficking victims. For the online shopping scam, buyers are tempted with extremely cheap offers for high-end products but wind up with counterfeit or inferior goods.
He explained that Ponzi Schemes are online investment schemes in which the syndicate collects from thousands of people by promising fast gains and very high interest rates. The investor also becomes a recruitment agent and generates down lines through his family members and friends. “When the scheme bursts, everybody loses except the syndicates. They even use glamour endorsements to lure you.”
Dato’ Mohd Anil cautioned against becoming money mules, where people are exploited by syndicates engaged in drug trafficking, human trafficking or cheating to launder money. He said once a person allows his bank account to be used by a member to deposit and clear some money, for a certain profit, that account is compromised and is part of the money laundering trade.
He also elaborated on cryptocurrency scams which involve bitcoins and other virtual money being transacted on unsecure platforms. He urged participants to verify with agencies like Bank Negara, Securities Commission and Registrar of Companies.This scam, he said, is similar to the Ponzi scheme, adding, “Initially things work out but as more people invest and the customer base become bigger, the chain will break, and you lose your hard-earned money”.
The pandemic has also given rise to Covid-19 fraud and scam with bogus companies selling safety products in bulk at very low prices, fraudulently soliciting donations, selling vaccines and issuing fake immunisation certificates, he asserted.