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Prevalence of financial scams necessitates public to develop better cybersecurity practices, says BNM deputy governor

KUCHING (Oct 15): Sarawak is among the states with the highest number of cases involving financial scams, with losses totalling RM12.54 million recorded from Oct 12 last year to Oct 8 this year, says Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) deputy governor Datuk Marzunisham Omar.

In an interview with The Borneo Post, he said the high prevalence of financial scams in Sarawak signalled the urgent need for the public to develop better cybersecurity hygiene.

He said e-commerce scams reported the highest loss at RM4.05 million, followed by telecommunication scams (RM3.15 million), e-finance scams (RM2.55 million), investment scams (RM1.47 million), loan scams (RM538,000), and love scams (RM37,000).

Another RM724,000 was lost via scams listed in the ‘Others’ category.

“E-commerce scams by far are the most prevalent scams in the state with 41.37 per cent of all recorded incidents during the period.

“With e-commerce scams, victims may unwittingly open fake websites resembling popular e-commerce sites and unintentionally make transactions or provide sensitive personal information to these fraudulent websites.

“I think almost two-thirds of Malaysians have reported that when they open a website, they do not really check whether the website is secure or not. So that is a prime example of why people sometimes become victims of scam,” he said.

Marzunisham added that a 2021 BNM survey had also found that almost 40 per cent of Malaysians reported actively sharing their personal identification number (PIN) with close friends.

With such risky behaviour rife among Malaysians, he said it was important to understand that the first line of defence against financial scams was the consumers themselves.

“That’s why BNM, the police, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and banking institutions have been conducting a lot of campaigns to create awareness among individuals and consumers on how best to protect themselves from becoming scam victims,” he explained.

Interestingly, the age group most affected by financial scams are not who you would expect.

Rather than stereotypes of the elderly being the most affected, 44.09 per cent of recorded cases involved those under 30, followed by 26.76 per cent from victims between the ages of 31 to 40.

To protect against becoming victims of scams, Marzunisham said there were a few simple steps that Malaysians of all ages should take to improve their cybersecurity hygiene.

These included never sharing one’s account password, PINs, one-time password (OTP), or banking information; always checking whether a website was secure or not; never downloading applications or programmes through unverified links or at the behest of merchants; and remembering that banks, government agencies or the police would never call and ask for personal banking details or tell you to make payments or move funds to a certain account.

For investment scams, Marzunisham cautioned that consumers must be mindful of so-called investment opportunities that might sound ‘too good to be true’.

“Your average unit trust gives you a return of five to seven per cent a year, so if someone comes and promises you a return of five per cent a month, it is definitely a scam.

“You might see promised returns in the first few months, but those returns are just to get you hooked and after a certain period, they (scammers) will disappear along with your money,” he said.

Adding on, he said even the most vigilant person could still fall victim to financial scams, and in such scenario, time would be of the essence – the victim must immediately notify their bank or the authorities to prevent the scammers from taking the money out of the banking system.

“Quickly call either your bank’s hotline number or the National Scam Response Centre (NSRC) on 997.

“Sometimes within a matter of minutes, scammers start a huge network of transfers – moving funds from one account to another, to a different bank, to merchants, to mule accounts – before finally withdrawing the money.

“At that point, you cannot trace anymore. The faster you call, the better chance we have at retrieving your funds,” he stressed.

On mule accounts, Marzunisham warned the public to be wary of anyone offering money in exchange for use of their bank accounts.

He added that the issue of mule accounts was quite prevalent in Malaysia, with BNM and the authorities identifying over 4,000 mule accounts to date.

Other than potentially facing criminal charges as co-conspirators of any apprehended scammers or syndicates, owners of mule accounts could also be blacklisted by banking institutions, making it almost impossible for them to open bank accounts and or apply for loans in the future.

For more information on better cybersecurity hygiene protocols, and the different types of financial scams and their mode of operations, Marzunisham called on the public to visit the ‘Amaran Scam’ and ‘Virtual Sarawak Financial Awareness’ pages on Facebook.








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