Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant shift in consumer habits not only in the Philippines but across the world. As many Filipinos continue to stay indoors or strive to live under the “new normal”, there has been an increase in the adoption of digital banking and financial services owing to the safety and convenience of these platforms.
“Over the past year, we have seen an accelerated growth in the use of digital methods of making payments as well as sending and receiving remittances. But the current trend that we are seeing infers that the increase would likely continue beyond the pandemic,” said Earl Melivo, Country Director for the Philippines, of cross-border digital payments company WorldRemit, who has seen consistent, double-digit growth month-on-month since it opened international transfers to domestic mobile wallets such as GCash, Paymaya and Coins.ph.
However, as the volume of money circulating in the digital sphere increases, the number of fraud cases have also increased. According to a study from global insights company TransUnion released last March 2021, 44 percent of Filipino consumers have been targeted by digital fraud attempts within the previous three months, while enterprises have seen a 31 percent increase in fraud attempts compared to the previous year.
According to WorldRemit, there are four industry-wide scams that Filipinos should be aware of this 2021: “email scams, online dating scams, shopping scams, and Facebook scams.”
Email scams are considered to be the most common in terms of volume. The usual approach of email scammers is by offering a huge sum of money for helping someone overseas, often by sending a much smaller amount than the promised reward to the scammer. Phishing emails on the other hand are crafted to trick the individual into sharing sensitive information such as names, addresses and credit card numbers.
Online dating scams usually happen on dating sites or on social media wherein a stranger starts a conversation professing attraction to the victim. Once the scammer gains the victim’s trust, they will proceed to ask for gifts, money or even credit card details.
As more people begin to shop online, shopping scams have also become more prevalent. These scams are in the form of listings of seemingly legitimate items being offered at prices that are way below the average retail price.
Facebook scams on the other hand are more varied. They may take the form of strangers introducing themselves as a distant relative or old family friend and then proceeding to ask for help. Other Facebook scams include fraudulent individuals pretending to be investors or legitimate companies offering potential business or investment opportunities.
“With the significant increase in digital fraud in the country, Filipino consumers need to be more wary of people they interact and transact with online, especially when money is involved. Not only should they protect their financial information, but they should also be wary of people asking for personal information such as their phone numbers, email addresses or ID numbers,” commented Melivo.
Guarding against fraud
As most financial and shopping activity migrates to online, Melivo encourages Filipinos to be mindful not only of the people they encounter online but also platforms and websites that they transact with.
“Consumers should think first before they click on a link, or before signing up for a financial service or an online shopping website. The more discerning users get, unfortunately the more deceptive fraudulent activities get as well,” said Melivo.
He added that Filipinos should also avoid third-party intermediaries or those that offer to make transactions on their behalf, and only transact with trustworthy platforms such as WorldRemit that provide security measures to avoid fraud and other malicious activities.