The Internet really has changed and improved so many aspects of our lives, including how we do business and acquire things. It has become a global marketplace as businesses and consumers rely on its accessibility and affordability in marketing, selling and buying products and services, and making other transactions.
Throw in the power of social media, and business potentials in the cyberspace grow by leaps and bounds especially now that more and more people are active and engaged in these networks.
In the Philippines, for example, around 67 million people use the internet and all of them are active on social media, according to the “Digital in 2018” report of US-based social media platform Hootsuite.
This widespread use of the internet and social media gives rise to the number of cybercrime cases in the country, with online scams on the top of the list.
PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) reported that in 2016-2017 alone, they have received and investigated 555 walk-in complaints of online scams which include online buying/selling, paluwagan, investment, pyramid and other forms of online fraud.
What are the usual Modus Operandi of these online shopping scams that social media users should be wary about? PNP ACG listed the following:
1. The suspect is always asking for money, like selling an item that looks genuine at a low price for reasons such as he/she needed money for emergencies.
2. Promises to ship the product.
3. Sometimes the scammer gives discount to the victim until the victim concedes.
4. The scammer provides bank accounts and instructs the victim to deposit the payment there.
5. He/she will say that the item was already shipped.
6. When you try to contact the scammer again, he/she does not reply and has deactivated his/her social media account.
Personally, I have received offers of products from these online scammers, and here are some of the things I assess in order not to be duped:
1. Website/Social media accounts. Some scammers invest on professional-looking websites or are very good in making social media profiles that look legitimate. Take the time to check it carefully. If it’s a website, does it have a digital certificate? Are there others who already have availed of products or services and left comments or reviews in the site or social media accounts? If I find any hint of irregularity, I reject the offer immediately.
2. Photos of products. You may check if the images used by seller is authentic or just downloaded online by doing a reverse image check in Google. If product photos were just taken somewhere in the internet, it is a red flag.
3. Company/Seller information and policies. Does the company or seller has physical address, working email address and correct phone number? How about their ordering and delivery processes? Is there a policy for refund or return of items? These questions are also important to ask before going ahead with the transaction.
4. Price and discounts. Check the price of the product if it is comparable to others who sell the same online. Be suspicious of unbelievably low prices and very high discount rates. If the offer is too good to be true, most likely it is not true.
If you have purchased something online and have been scammed or just suspicious of some online sellers’ activities, you may report it to PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group for investigation through their website www.pnpacg.ph, hotline number 7230401 loc 5313 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s very laudable that some tech companies such as Globe Telecom are in the forefront in fight against online scams and other cybercrimes. In 2017 alone, the company blocked over 400 million spam and scam messages through their advanced filtering solutions.
Recently, Globe came out with the #makeITsafePH cybersecurity and cyberwellness campaign to educate consumers about online threats and how to avoid becoming a victim. The campaign also teaches the public proper online etiquette so that they would not become a source of such deplorable behavior. (With reports from Hootsuite and PNP ACG | Image by Pexels.com)