In 2020, 1 in 3 people in Southeast Asia experienced online fraud amid the boom in online shopping and internet activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has also contributed to the emergence of new scams, such as delivery scams, across Asia. A series of frauds had cost OCBC Bank users in Singapore at least US$10m. In Hong Kong, an NFT project lost US$1.3m in a phishing scam. And over Christmas last year, 5 people in the Philippines were arrested for a massive online banking fraud that compromised the accounts of 700 clients belonging to the country’s largest bank, BDO Unibank.
With the rise of high tech scams, banks and fintech companies alike are on an evolutionary arms race to fight fraud and cybercrime. What can financial institutions and us consumers do to protect ourselves against these scams?
Take care and take charge,
💰 Fighting Asia's high-tech scams
Covid-19 pandemic triggers bank scam epidemic [ST]
How scam factories work - In an SMS phishing epidemic (also known as “smishing”) in the Philippines, regulators were inundated by complaints from people receiving text messages, sometimes more than 10 times a day, purportedly offering jobs that pay up to 8,000 pesos (US$155) a day, well above the minimum wage of about 500 pesos per day.
The messages contained links that opened a private channel on WhatsApp through which hackers - often with IP addresses traced to India and China - ran the scam that defrauded those desperate for a job.
Plugging banking system gaps - Scammers often exploit loopholes in banking systems. Last October, Thailand experienced one of its largest-scale banking scams when about 40,000 people saw unauthorised transactions on their debit and credit cards amounting to about 130 million baht (US$3.9m). Since then, the authorities have introduced new guidelines for banks, including additional verification measures, and monitoring of suspicious transactions for small and frequent transaction amounts.
But beyond warnings and educational campaigns, banking experts also suggest that banks respond faster to complaints, and prepare proper instruments to protect customers from potential cybercrimes.
💡 Learn more
- Singapore: New measures against SMS phishing scams
- From Hong Kong to Malaysia: How scammers stay one step ahead of banks
SMS phishing scams in S’pore: What more can be done? [Vulcan Post]
What happened? - As early as Dec last year, scammers were impersonating OCBC and sending out SMS phishing messages to OCBC customers in Singapore with links to fake websites. The victims would enter their digital banking login details on these fake websites, giving these scammers the ability to siphon money from their victims’ accounts. In just two days (Dec 24 to Dec 26), 186 customers lost US$2.7m in total.
Responsibility is a two-way street - Some industry observers have said that customers should take responsibility for the scams so that they will remain vigilant and cautious on fraudulent transactions. They believe the bank guarantees that cover customers’ scams and frauds will end up causing more fraud cases. But as scammers get more sophisticated in conning people of their money, others argue that banks should step up on safeguarding their users, such as working on ways to prevent SMS spoofing.
💡 Learn more
- Experts weigh in: How convenience should not compromise security
Crypto scams: win some, lose some [Techwire Asia]
Headlines in Asia - Both China and India are big in the news on cryptocurrency scams, with China officially announcing a ban on crypto trading last year. India, meanwhile, has become a hotbed for crypto frauds, with more users showing interest in crypto trading. The subcontinent is currently investigating its largest crypto scam involving bitcoins.
Perils of unregulated investments - Just as any investment scam, a crypto scam involves criminals stealing money from people who think they are investing in digital currency. As most crypto assets and services are not regulated by financial regulators, the funds are not protected, compared to other regulated investments.
This means, if a crypto scammer cons a user into investing their funds, the is no possibility of the funds being able to be recovered at all. And because genuine cryptocurrency trading can offer high value in returns for some users, there has been a mad rush into the industry in recent times.
How can we avoid crypto scams? - Here are 3 ways suggested by Techwire Asia to avoid crypto scams:
- Research - Always do some background research on a particular cryptocurrency to snuff out fishy crypto tokens.
- Review websites and social media pages - Before investing any funds, be sure to also do a check of social media to ensure the trading platform’s status and genuineness.
- Maintain privacy - Never share passwords or authentication codes for a crypto wallet with anyone, and enable multi-factor authentication wherever available.