The Covid-19 pandemic, triggering an epidemic of banking scams

BANGALORE – The world has been grappling with banking scams for years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an explosion in such crimes.

The frequency and size of frauds have multiplied, wiping out the bank accounts of online banking novices as well as tech savvy ones. Among the victims are celebrities and financial experts.

As more and more people use mobile wallets and digital banking apps in Asia, they also become unwittingly vulnerable to money and data theft.

The scams are as widespread as they are diverse, from as rudimentary as the Nigerian letter hoax that tricks victims into divulging their bank details in exchange for a fantastic share of wealth, to something as sophisticated as relying on counterfeits. or to link to flawless reproductions. websites.

Cybercrime officials attribute the rise in scams during Covid-19 to greater remote working, with people using personal computers or laptops with weaker online security than desktop systems; the unemployed during the pandemic who engage in hacking; and digital fatigue leading to neglect.

But, perhaps, the saddest reason is that many desperate people, made poor during the pandemic, have been easy victims.

Scam factories

During a smishing outbreak in the Philippines that coincided with the pandemic, regulators were inundated with complaints from people receiving text messages, sometimes more than 10 times a day, allegedly offering jobs paying up to 8,000 pesos (S$210) per day, well above minimum wage.

The messages contained links that opened a private channel on WhatsApp through which hackers – often with IP addresses traced to India and China – ran the scam that defrauded those desperate for employment.

“Fraudsters are always looking to take advantage of significant global events, like the Covid-19 pandemic and its corresponding rapid digital acceleration caused by stay-at-home orders,” said Ms. Pia Arellano, president of data security firm TransUnion Philippines. .

Governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, Benjamin Diokno, said hacking and other malware attacks soared 2,324% in 2020, when the country went through the worst of the pandemic, while phishing increased by 302%.

The Bank of the Philippines Islands, the country’s fourth-largest bank by assets, said it took down nearly 2,000 phishing sites in the first three months of 2021 alone.

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