Asia’s top Internet scams, and how to stay safe

  • Telenor study underscores importance of protecting personal information online
  • While many are aware of traditional scams, new ones are born every day
Asia’s top Internet scams, and how to stay safe

A STUDY released recently by Telenor Group showed that the top three Internet scams in Asia are: 1) ‘Work from home’ fraud; 2) Internet auction scams; and 3) Fake bank email scams.
As Internet accessibility in Asia continues to expand across the region and across tech devices and platforms, so too do the ways that Internet scams infiltrate consumers’ personal information, Telenor said in a statement.
The multi-market survey assessed the impact of scams on 400 internet users aged 18-65+ in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India, and was conducted to provide better understanding of the common methods in which people are scammed online.
The results additionally gleaned the best Internet scam prevention methods from experienced users, in order for netizens in Asia to gain more insight and education on the subject, Telenor said.
While many consumers are now aware of e-mail fraud such as ‘official representatives’ from a foreign government offering millions of dollars in return for an upfront fee, new scams are born every day and it’s important to assess the landscape of today’s online deceptions, it added.
With 71% of respondents admitting to being an ‘Internet addict,’ the results show that Internet scams are a big concern to Asian consumers today.
This comes despite nearly 94% of those surveyed stating the Internet has improved their life and a further 80% believing it has helped strengthen personal relationships.
According to the survey, 87% in the region find the prospect ‘very or somewhat’ concerning, alongside fraud (87%) and ahead of violent crime (84%) and terrorism (83%).
And now with the rise of mobile broadband, consumers in Asia consider themselves three times more likely to fall victim to a scam on their smartphone than in person, Telenor said.
Most notorious scams
Certain scams are more common than others and the study revealed that most result in financial loss, at an average of US$9,900 per scammed individual across the four markets.
Below are the top five scams most frequently encountered in Asia:
1) ‘Work from home’ fraud (36%)
The ‘work from home’ is a scam whereby users are either fooled into paying someone online to help them start a business, only for nothing to materialise, or users are tricked into completing work on their computer but never receive payment.
2) Internet auction scams (16%)
Internet auctions are where an online item is purchased, but once the scammer has received payment, they do not deliver the purchased item.
3) Fake bank e-mail (15%)
E-mails carefully crafted to look nearly identical to those by actual banks and lure people into entering their private customer information.
4) Online dating scam (14%)
Here con artists earn the trust of their victims via online dating sites to steal personal information or money.
5) Identity theft (13%)
Online actions to fraudulently acquire and use a person's private identifying information, usually for financial gain through fake websites and emails, etc (click to enlarge infographic below).

Asia’s top Internet scams, and how to stay safe

Scams by gender
Across the region, men and women have similar attitudes to keeping safe online and are equally likely to feel in control.
But women are more careful about their email security – more likely to delete anything suspicious (76% female vs 73% male), they tend only to give their email address to close friends (33% female vs 31% male).
Meanwhile, men invest in software (69% male vs 62% female), make sure they research the risks thoroughly (59% male vs 49% female), and are more likely to say they browse privately to stay safe from scammers (41% male vs 30% female).
Preventing scams
While online scams are real, they are equally preventable, Telenor said.
Half of those surveyed in the markets feel the responsibility to protect people online is with the website itself or with the government.
However, more than 80% of respondents equally believe it is the responsibility of individuals to ensure they’re safe online.
Helplines are noted as the most relevant tool in helping victims of internet scams (70%), followed by educational campaigns to share information about preventing scams.
Of the methods currently available, below are the top five most frequently used in Asia to help prevent personal risk in online scams:

  • Delete emails that seem to be suspicious and untrustworthy.
  • Ignore advertisements and offers that appear ‘too good to be true.’
  • Update your anti-malware software.
  • Undertake online research about scams to educate yourself.
  • Share knowledge and preventive ideas with friends and family through social media.

“Asia is a dynamic region with a growing online population,” said Telenor head of social responsibility Ola Jo Tandre.
“We encourage our netizens to be aware of potential threats and to openly talk with friends and family about online welfare. In the digital world we mustn’t forget our real world principles, such as, ‘if something looks too good, it probably is’.”
Related Stories:
Cyber blackmail scams on the rise, warns CyberSecurity Malaysia
Phishing scams and the human brain
Social media users ripe targets for cybercriminals
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