By Tie Hao
Since COVID-19 swept the world in 2020, there has been a surge in phone fraud cases worldwide. As people around the world work together to fight the pandemic, there are many of those who are respected, such as vaccinators, health care workers, police officers, and volunteers, all of whom are working hard to do their jobs.
However, there are some bad actors who have taken advantage of the pandemic to harm consumers, causing serious financial hardship to them. According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), police recorded a total of 5,725 cases of telephone fraud in 2019, with a total loss of RM254,586,210.94, and increased to 6,003 cases and a loss of RM287,301,039.90 following the outbreak in 2020.
There are reasons why phone scams were rampant during the outbreak, as individuals, families and businesses chose to shop around online for masks during the initial outbreak when there was a shortage of supplies such as masks. This gave deceivers the opportunity to cheat, and when they received payment for their goods, they would disappear.
Secondly, many individuals and businesses are short of funds and those who need money will apply for loans online, leading to a high incidence of loan scams. Fraudsters also pretend to be bankers and the government to scare us into revealing personal information and bank account details on the pretext that one is expecting a loan during the pandemic.
So, phone scams are seriously infringing on the personal interests of consumers and the authorities should increase consumer awareness and consumer protection awareness, and establish a framework for consumer fraud prevention and consumer education.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is working with 15 telecommunication companies to organise a telecoms crime prevention campaign to educate consumers to recognise fraudulent activities and take the right steps to prevent a spike in frauds.
Consumers themselves should also be aware of fraud prevention and we should be aware of common cases of telephone fraud to prevent being scammed. Be careful not to disclose personal information during an outbreak. And don’t trust unsolicited messages from unknown sources if they come from emails, phone calls, text messages, or faxes.
During the epidemic, be careful about using QR Codes as many establishments will ask for QR Codes as part of the outbreak and consumers need to be aware of whether they are genuine when scanning them as this could reveal personal and account information.
Secondly, don’t take unfamiliar calls lightly. When we see a call from abroad, or when a suspicious person calls we need to be wary as it is most likely to be a fraudster.
Finally, we should encourage consumers to report and complain to the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) when they encounter fraudulent situations to avoid damage to their interests. ***
(Tie Hao is a student in Department of Business Administration, Kulliyyah of Economic and Management Sciences (KENMS). The article is part of ‘Responsible Consumerism’ course. The views expressed here are those of the writer/author and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday,)