A TECHNOLOGY official has expressed concern over the Philippines’ topping the list of Asian countries with the highest shopping scam rate, and urged consumers to be vigilant to avoid becoming victims.
Director Frederick Amores of the Department of Information and Communications Technology in Central Visayas (DICT 7) said there is a need for heightened caution, particularly during the current Christmas shopping frenzy when scammers aim to exploit the heightened demand.
“The numbers are a bit high, meaning a lot of Filipinos are getting victimized. It is really time that we, as consumers, should be really careful,” he told SunStar Cebu on Nov. 29, 2023.
He said if consumers buying online see prices of products that are unrealistic, these products should be avoided. He emphasized to the public that “if it is too good to be true, you are most likely being scammed.”
Amores added that the public should always keep an eye on “red flags” to avoid losing money from purchasing fraudulent items through scams.
According to the study released in November, the Philippines recorded an online shopping scam rate of 35.9 percent, making it the predominant scam technique in the country.
Among the 11 countries surveyed in the 2023 Asia Scam Report, Filipinos were identified as the most susceptible to online fraudulent shopping schemes.
Of the Filipino victims, 24.8 percent attributed their victimization to “responding too quickly to the scammer’s demands,” while 21.1 percent acknowledged taking risks despite uncertainties, and 20.5 percent were lured by offered incentives.
The study also revealed that victims encountered scams through various channels, including text messages, social media and email.
Conducted by the non-profit organization Global Anti-Scam Alliance and the Taiwan-based tech company Gogolook, the research involved approximately 20,000 respondents from the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Indonesia.
Aside from shopping scams, following closely were investment scams at 29 percent, lottery scams at 22.9 percent, job scams at 17.8 percent, and identity theft at 17.7 percent.
Amores said he personally experienced falling victim to a scam earlier this year when he placed an online order for a side table. Intrigued by the item’s appearance and design on an e-commerce platform, especially given its affordable price, he decided to proceed with the purchase.
Despite suspecting that the actual product might differ from the photo posted by the seller, he chose to take the risk and accept whatever size the side table would turn out to be upon arrival.
To his dismay, instead of receiving a side table for his office, he was delivered a miniature version made from lightweight cardboard materials. Despite this, he kept the order as it amounted only to P150.
The director said the usual cost of a side table is well over P1,000, highlighting the significant difference in value compared to what he received.
Amores offered other tips for online shoppers to protect themselves against potential scams.
He advised the public to refrain from accepting package deliveries they did not order online.
He mentioned instances when individuals received notifications about unordered items and were subsequently asked for payment, emphasizing the importance of not accepting such deliveries without prior clearance from the recipient.
Amores suggested informing household helpers or staff not to accept packages that hadn’t been authorized by the owner.
Additionally, he emphasized the significance of never sharing one’s OTP (one-time password), as scammers often exploit this information for phishing attempts, seeking critical details about bank accounts. Amores stressed the need for the public to verify the source of messages and not be overly trusting.
He also advised recording a video while unboxing online purchases, as it could serve as evidence in case of scams. This documentation is crucial for securing refunds in the event of receiving fraudulent items, benefiting both consumers and online merchants.
Amores also warned the public about individuals impersonating others on platforms like Facebook and attempting to borrow money.
He advised verification through direct calls to confirm the identity of the person to avoid falling prey to online scams.