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Be Scam-Safe this Holiday Season and Beyond

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Thirty-six percent. That’s the shopping scam rate in the Philippines this year, the highest among 11 countries. With holiday shopping in full swing, it pays to keep our eyes peeled.

The 2023 Asia Scam Report, which was released at the 1st Anti-Scam Asia Summit in Taipei last November and published by GASA and Gogolook, identified shopping scam as one of the nine mainstream scam scenarios and techniques used by cyber criminals.

With more Filipinos turning to online shopping, incidences of shopping scams have been rising recently. These shopping scams occur even more frequently and probably with more severity during the Christmas season: Everyone is too busy ticking off items on their Christmas shopping lists, and scammers are taking advantage.

Why are Filipinos easily scammed?

Besides shopping scams, Filipinos fall prey to investment scams (top 2 at 29%) and lottery scams (22.9%). Job scams, identity theft, and government/bank, family/relative, bill payment and charity scams make up the top scam scenarios and techniques used in the country.

The report, which utilized data collected from nearly 20,000 respondents across 11 countries in Asia, namely the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Indonesia, pointed to victims responding too quickly to scammers’ demands as the top reason (24.8% of respondents) for being victimized.

Other reasons are victims choosing to take a risk despite uncertainties (21.1%), being enticed by offered incentives (20.5%) and overtrusting friends or family members (13.6%). Lack of knowledge to identify scams and failure to recognize scams were also factors.

Holiday phishing another menace

Besides shopping and other forms of scams, phishing, particularly during holidays, is a very common threat.

According to Kaspersky, a cybersecurity and digital privacy company, the Philippines ranked fifth with the most phishing attacks in 2022 among countries in Southeast Asia. These attempts use fake identities and emails to lure victims into giving personal information and banking details.

When you open your laptop to complete that yuletide shopping or finish one last office task before going on your Christmas break and you see an email from your boss or a client, don’t get over-excited or anxious that you respond without thinking. It may not be from your boss or client.

Be wary of such emails or any messages. If something feels off, it could be a warning. Don’t open right away. If there’s a link, don’t click just yet.

Be scam-alert

  • Be on your guard when shopping online. If it’s too good to be true, it just might be a scam.
  • Buy only from reliable sites. Check the reviews. If buying from a new online store, scrutinize for any sign of scam. Check the page design, language, URL, etc.
  • Make sure you’re on a secure website, particularly when making payments.
  • Beware of discount codes, especially on social media.
  • Check the address of emails received. Many phishing emails use addresses that look very similar to the legit counterparts. But scrutinize further: A letter might have been added, taken off or substituted to make the email address look like the correct one. One tip: Legit links start with https://, not http://.
  • If the scam is attempted via text, check the number. Respond only to numbers whose owners you know. Same goes for phone calls.
  • Pay attention to grammar and spelling errors on emails or messages received. If an email, for example, contains a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes and looks unprofessional in this regard, it might be a phishing attempt.
  • Be mindful of language used. Scammers may use urgency or fear tactics to manipulate or prod the recipient to act without thinking. Be cautious of emails and/or messages that pressure you into taking immediate action or threaten consequences.
  • Think before you click. If a link or attachment is suspicious, chances are it is. If you don’t know or trust the source, just delete the email or don’t act on it.
  • Don’t give personal data. Be sure you’re giving personal information only to credible and legitimate parties. Many phishing emails would ask for updated personal data to activate or provide something. If you didn’t register, apply or request anything, don’t reply. Same goes with phishing texts or calls such as those pretending to be from banks.
  • Monitor your bank and credit card statements for signs of fraud.
  • Stay informed. Protect yourself even better by learning more about phishing and the new methods scammers use. Phishing nowadays takes many forms so it pays to read up.
  • Report it to your IT team. Additionally, you may also call and report the incident to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Make the most of the holidays by avoiding the stress and anxiety of having been scammed.

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