As the coronavirus pandemic goes global, a new trend has risen online alongside it: Scammers, specifically those who prey on people’s fears by offering face masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves for cheap.
According to Malaysia’s senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, some 572 cases were reported of people being scammed since March 18, 2020, when the movement control order (MCO) began.
“The scams were mostly run on Facebook and WhatsApp social media platforms. Selangor alone recorded 122 cases, followed by Johor and Penang with 68 each,” Ismail said on June 4, 2020.
But what’s bewildering is the total amount Malaysians were scammed: A whopping US$1.3 million (RM5.5 million).
Ismail added that 81 scammers have been arrested by the authorities with 53 already taken to court.
Here’s how the scammers work.
According to The Rocket victims typically pay the online seller for the masks and would discover, later on, that the seller has disappeared. The face masks were then not delivered despite payment having been transferred.
Majority of these scammers “sell” their face masks for cheap in hopes to entice and lure victims.
In one case, a Malaysian businessman had apparently lost US$62274 (RM266,253) after placing an order 20,000 boxes.
The victim had apparently been contacted by a Facebook user by the name of ‘Heston Seah’ who had come across his post requesting for masks. Heston then blocked the victim after the latter had placed his orders.
When the MCO was implemented, face masks were among the items that were the most highly sought after, causing many stores to run out of stock.
Here’s how to avoid getting scammed.
The best thing you can do is to avoid dubious online offers and be sure to check reviews of the face masks.
Doing a thorough check on the company’s status before making any purchases also limits your chances of being scammed greatly.
It’s always safer to purchase from legit online pharmacies even if the prices can get a little steep.
By the way, in case you’re looking for an eco-friendly reusable face mask that’s affordable, you might want to give the Gill Face Mask a try!
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Cover image sourced from The Rocket.
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