• Corporate Communications

Avoiding Online Shopping Scams


The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly altered the way we function daily, with notable changes to the way we work, live, and shop. As the masses get comfortable with various online shopping tips, exploitative fraudsters are using the opportunity to make a windfall through unscrupulous tactics. We have been hearing about the many online shopping scams around the country, and it’s time we put a stop to them. Read on to know how to spot these online shopping scams, and how not to fall for them.


The Types Of Online Shopping Scams You Need To Know


A. JOB SCAM


What is it: Text messages sent to you from unknown numbers through communication apps or social media, typically via WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram ad or private message. You will be asked if you are interested in working , or are being informed that you have been selected to work online to earn an extra income. The catch? You have to pay first in order to get paid.


How it works in different scenarios:


#1: The job offer comes with a daily reward of RM100 – RM300 for completing simple tasks. At the beginning of the job, you will receive a small amount of reward, a tactic to lure victims and shape a false sense of security that a scammer would never give their victims money. To make it promising and convincing, the “reward” will be paid to the victim in batches.

You will be added to a group chat that consists of several other “job takers” (but they’re allies of the scammer). This is to drive home the legitimacy of the offer, thereby giving the impression that other people are doing this as well.


#2: You will receive an SMS from a “online shopping representative” or even a “seller” claiming that they have overcharged your online shopping purchases and proceed to offer you a refund. A WhatsApp link will be provided so you can contact the scammer.

Upon making contact, the scammer will insist on several “procedures” including asking for your full name, bank account number, and ID. The scammer will proceed with the refund, in which you will receive a small amount in your bank account. You will then be asked to perform a “feedback activity”. If you do this, you will receive RM150 in return. However, you need to pay for it and before you can get the RM150 as promised, the scammer would be long gone.


How you can avoid it: One thing to remember is that most online shopping sites do not employ any individuals to recruit employees through messaging platforms. There is no such role as “Online Purchasing Agents” in the organisation. They will never request for advance payment or deposits as a requirement to work with them.


B. BANK DETAILS SCAM


What is it: Scammers send out a text—could be through any messaging platform—informing you of a confirmed transaction through an e-commerce website. Adding to it is that someone has apparently stolen your debit or credit card details. Online shopping scams like this are common and often sent out via blast.


How it works: If you call the number in the message, someone pretending to be a bank officer will pick up the call. During the conversation, they will ask for your bank verification details, in hopes of accessing the funds within.


How you can avoid it: Check if you have an account with the bank in question. If yes, call the bank directly through official hotlines, which can be found on their respective websites. Finally, never share your personal information (bank account number, IC, credit card number, etc.) with anyone pretending to be an officer in an online scam.


C. PAYMENT SCAM


What is it: There are a couple of scenarios to this payment scam, but they all aim to do one thing: Dupe you into giving up your personal details or making payments outside of the online shopping site.


How it works in different scenarios:


#1: Masquerading as a paid social media post using the e-commerce site logo, tempting you into giving your personal information in exchange for exclusive vouchers.


#2: Impersonating as the e-commerce site, scammers use messaging platforms to trick you into thinking you’ve won a contest. To claim the prize, you have to key in your login details.


#3: A purported e-commerce site employee informs you via WhatsApp to settle outstanding payments. To do so, you need to transfer all monies to a specific bank account.


#4: You’re told that you’ve overpaid for an order, and are requested to return the overpaid amount immediately.


#5: A supposed once-in-a-lifetime deal pops up and to get it, you’ll need to pay directly to the scammer.


#6: Asking for your personal information or one-time password (OTP) to verify your purchases on the online shopping site. In reality, it’s all an elaborate process to defraud you once they gain access to your account.


How you can avoid it: Only use the e-commerce site’s in-app chat feature for all correspondence with sellers. Besides, most orders placed with us are protected by the e-commerce site guarantee.


D. STOLEN ACCOUNT SCAM


What is it: A common online shopping scam tactic, scammers use phishing websites or ad pop-ups to extract your login credentials. More often than not, these places look like the official platform.


How it works in different scenarios:


#1: Scammers use your login credentials on the phishing website, and use them to access your online shopping account and steal important information such as your bank account details, address, and more.


#2: You click into a pop-up assuming you had won a giveaway contest. Then, you must exchange certain particulars for the prize. There’s no prize, and now you are at risk of losing sensitive information to the scammers.


How you can avoid it: All announcements pertaining to the online shopping campaigns and prizes will only be through official e-commerce site channels. Anything apart from those avenues? Best to ignore.


E. PARCEL SCAM


What is it: In this scam, your packages are stuck in transit.


How it works in different scenarios:


#1: Scammers send you an SMS containing a link with details of uncollected parcels. After clicking on the link, you will see a message telling you that the parcels have been withheld due to several reasons, which include unpaid shipping charges or taxes. You must then pay for these charges if you wish to retrieve the goods. After receiving the payment, the scammer signs off and disappears from the conversation.


#2: You get a direct message from someone carrying the e-commerce site logo, congratulating you on winning a prize. A dubious link directs you to a page containing a set of questions. Regardless of the given answers, you have to pay a delivery fee for the prize through your credit or debit card. After which, your details will be harvested for unauthorised transactions.


How you can avoid it: When in doubt, cross-check your orders in the online shopping system. Besides, the e-commerce site only contacts winners of any giveaways through official pages or their official app notifications.


F. PRIVATE MESSAGE SCAM


What is it: A social media-specific online shopping scam, scammers would reach out via direct message in hopes of tricking you to give them your personal information.


How it works: The scammer promises complimentary e-commerce vouchers if you vote for them in a campaign. After voting, the scammer will claim to have sent a six-digit code to you via text. Because there’s no code, the scammer proceeds to pester you for personal details.


How you can avoid it: Most e-commerce sites are generous with vouchers, but they are only available on the app and website.


G. SELLER CENTER SCAM


What is it: In this scam targeted towards sellers, scammers tell you that your shop contains prohibited items.


How it works: Threatening you with serious consequences, the scammer pressures you to delete said prohibited items within 12 to 24 hours. Via WhatsApp, a link lets you log into your seller account. This gives the scammer full access to your real account, exposing all private and confidential information.


How you can avoid it: Any correspondence between the e-commerce site and sellers only happens on official social media pages and their app.


It’s unfortunate that there are individuals looking to make a quick buck through such dishonest methods, but this is the world we live in. Online shopping scams have become a lot more rampant especially now as we are spending more time online be it to shop, sell, or browse. It’s highly likely you may encounter or hear about a scam every so often.