How Safe are You Online?

Cover Story

By Nabilah Hamudin and Ili Aqilah

According to police, advances in technology have resulted in an increase in cybercrime cases. However, are people aware of the many pitfalls they are exposed to while they are on the internet, browsing from one website to another, doing their online shopping and making online banking transactions?

Do you know how vulnerable we are when we are on the internet, providing information required for online shopping, purchasing air tickets and while transferring money from our account to the account of our family members?

In this issue, Ipoh Echo examines some common cybercrimes impacting Malaysians on the whole and seeks advice from the authorities.

Phishing, Scams and e-Commerce Fraud

According to the Royal Malaysian Police, the top three online crimes in the country are e-commerce fraud involving online purchases, parcel scam and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam. This may change from time to time, depending on prevailing trends.

Internet Banking – Phishing

Internet banking services have been around in Malaysia since 2001. Beginning in 2003, a spike in fraudulent activities, pertaining to internet banking or better known as “phishing”, was observed.

According to an Ipoh Maybank officer (who prefers to remain anonymous), the modus operandi of the fraudster(s) is to use spoofing techniques to gain names and passwords of account holders.

“Most of the victims were deceived into accessing fake websites, where their usernames and passwords were sourced and later used for the perpetrators’ benefits. This fraudulent activity is not limited to Perak or the country’s banks alone, it has become a worldwide problem,” he told Ipoh Echo.

He added that that is why banks now require those wishing to do online banking to provide the Transaction Authorisation Code (TAC) that is sent via SMS to their mobile phones. Maybank observes this ruling.

“Never use public Wi-Fi for online banking and credit card transactions,” he warned.

Following this, Maybank has been running a public awareness campaign to educate people on online security, generally, and internet banking safety, specifically.

Maybank has also collaborated with CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (Mosti).

“It’s therefore safe to do online transactions with us, unless the device or machine used has been compromised, such as when you’re using public Wi-Fi. Thus, when something illegal happens, the account holder will automatically be logged out from the website preventing him from completing the transaction. This is to protect the user’s account,” he explained.

So, be wary when you do online transactions.


He revealed that besides online transactions, the public can also be exposed to crime cases when they are withdrawing money from an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).  While the usage of ATMs has increased significantly over the past 10 years, fraudsters have become more sophisticated in their methods of trying to steal money from bank accounts.

However, the bank officer advised that the threat of unscrupulous behaviour from the perpetrators should not put you off from using ATMs but it is always wise to adopt a safety-conscious approach when making any kind of cash withdrawal.

“First, if you can, check the machine before using it. Many ATM fraudsters use tactics such as placing false fronts over the card slot to copy, or skim your details. Only use ATMs situated in well-lit and busy areas, particularly after nightfall. Preferably, use an ATM located indoors, in a bank or building and monitored by close-circuit television (CCTV),” he advised.

He added that the ATMs users should stay focused while doing their transaction or withdrawing money and do not entertain anyone who are trying to divert your attention.

“Also, never accept or ask help from strangers. It doesn’t matter how inoffensive or friendly someone may appear, never ask help from strangers when you need help to use the ATMs. Always take a friend or someone with you,” he warned.

While putting your Personal Identification Number (PIN), always place your hand over the keypad to act as shield.  Avoid inputting your PIN if there are people too close to you, and never reveal your PIN to anyone, not even to a bank staff.

“Also, never write down your PIN as a note in your wallet or handbag. Doing so will provide thieves with your cards and PIN in one fell swoop, and they can access your account straightaway,” he said.


According to Perak Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) chief Superintendent Md Razif Alang Mat Jaya, anyone who is an active computer user could either be a potential cyber crime victim or a perpetrator himself. He added that the younger generation is the most vulnerable.

“Almost 70 per cent of commercial crime cases today are cybercrimes,” said Md Razif Alang. When asked which are  the most popular scams in Perak, he said “Macau Scam” tops the list. Despite numerous warnings, since 2009, many have been conned into divulging information to the crooks, who claim they are from Bank Negara or from the victims’ banks.

They trick people into revealing their confidential banking information or to divulge their personal details, before they transfer money into the scammers’ accounts. They will call the victims and inform them of an outstanding amount which needs to be settled. They will also get details from the victims, saying they need to verify it against their records.

If the victim says that he/she does not have an account, they will say that someone has used their particulars to open an account and performed transactions, which need to be settled.

This will instil fear in victims who think that someone is using their particulars to launder money, or has opened an account and were using their credit cards.

Scammers, he said, normally use a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to replicate the telephone numbers of genuine organisations, including the police and Bank Negara Malaysia, to trick the victims.

E-commerce Fraud Online Purchase

The e-commerce sector continues to top the list of complaints by Malaysian consumers. The National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) finds that an increasing number of Malaysians are falling victim to unscrupulous online merchants.

In the case of online scams, NCCC legal and policy executive, Shabana Naser Ahmad, said scammers will set up fake websites offering goods and services.

“They usually advertise their products on social media and instant messaging service. They claim to be legitimate online sellers and dupe consumers into making payments into personal bank accounts in order to receive the products and services offered. Once payments are made, the scammers disappear without a trace. Even the websites and phone numbers are no longer available,” she said.

Besides being victims of online scams, she said many consumers were given the runaround and empty promises when it comes to product delivery, with some products taking over a month to arrive or not arriving at all.

Other Scams

Personal Loans

Meanwhile, Perak Barisan Nasional Public Service and Complaints Centre chief, Mohd Rawi Abdullah, said a housewife from Bercham was cheated of RM1288 after receiving a call, offering her a personal loan of RM50,000. The caller told the lady to send snapshots of her MyKad and her bank account number. The amount she paid was the legal fee according to the scammer.

The 23-year-old housewife wanted to surprise her husband who longed for a car to go to work. She thought that the personal loan could make her husband’s dream come true. After paying the requested amount, she was asked to pay another RM5000 as a deposit. Since she could not pay the ‘deposit’, the loan was cancelled and with it went her ‘legal fee’.

Death Threats

Daniel Wa Wai How, Perak MCA Youth secretary was a victim too. According to him, he was tricked into paying money by a rather chilling scam. This time death threats were used to extort money from intended victims.

The unsuspecting victim will get a message or call from the so-called hitman purportedly hired to kill him. He has to pay the hitman if he wants to live. “The caller addressed me by my name. He claimed to know my house and the time I come home daily,” he said.

Perak MCA Public Service and Complaints Bureau Chief Jimmy Loh shared his experience when dealing with similar cases. “Most of the victims who come to our office are in their 40s. They’re really desperate for money to pay off their debts, or to run their businesses. They’re not well educated and, thus, are easily duped into parting with their money,” he said.

Mohd Rawi advised members of the public to not give money to unknown people, especially when it involves huge amounts.

“These scams are hard to resolve. The police are working hard to apprehend the perpetrators but information is hard to come by. Without information, it’s difficult to track the culprits.”

Love Scams

MCA Public Services and Complaints Department Head, Dato’ Seri Michael Chong, commented on the numerous love scams. He said, the majority of the victims, who lodged reports at his office, were single mothers.

“Most of them were lonely. They claimed they’re blinded and overwhelmed by emotions triggered by Facebook or WhatsApp messages,” he said. Chong said many did not lodge reports because they were ashamed of their actions. “I’ve known of one suicide and two attempted suicides arising from love scams.” he revealed.

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