By Melati Mohd Ariff
KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (Bernama) -- "I am in a hurry when writing you this message. Yesterday, I came to visit a new researchers' complex in London, Imperial College England. Well we actually got robbed in the hotel I booked and they made away with my wallet (which include cash and credit cards).
"Please. I want you to help me with money so please can you send me 1,500 pounds ... You can have it sent through Western Union Money Transfer.... please let me hear from you so I can give you my full name and the address where you can send the money to..."
A Malaysian consumer activist supposedly sent this 'desperate' e-mail.
However, that was not the first of such e-mail received by this writer.
There was a similar e-mail some time back, purportedly from an environment activist who claimed to be robbed in one African country and was in dire need of urgent financial help.
Upon checking, the writer eventually found out that both senders of the e-mails were safe and sound in Malaysia.
Therefore both e-mails turned out to be nothing but frauds!
DEFINITELY A SCAM
"I was stunned when I got a phone call from a friend saying he had received an e-mail from me that claimed I was robbed and stranded in London. Of course there was no truth behind that e-mail. It was definitely a scam.
"But what puzzled me was how those unscrupulous people can breach into my e-mail (box). How did they get my password?" consumer activist Ismail Abdul Aziz told Bernama recently.
Obviously disturbed with the phoney e-mail, Ismail voiced out his concerns that such cyber scam would cause alarm to his relatives and friends.
Ismail who is also the honorary secretary of a non-governmental organisation, Persatuan Pengguna dan Sosial Daerah Petaling, said forgetting to sign-off could be among the several possibilities on how his e-mail boxes was breached into.
"Probably I forgot to sign off when I sent out an e-mail. Someone may have a way to hack into my e-mail and probably the culprit was outside the country."
Ismail had since changed his password and lodged a report with the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) who has forwarded the complaint to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (SKMM).
Without doubt, the Internet has become something that we could not do without these days.
Many do not only use the Internet for information retrieving but also to conduct shopping and business transactions, including online banking.
"The extensive use of Internet and increasing number of users has paved the way for unscrupulous people to engage in cyber frauds."
That is the words of Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman, the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associatons (Fomca) chief executive.
"There were numerous scams brought to our attention. They include winning lotteries and lucky draws, scams to transfer inheritance or frozen assets, e-mails to coax purchase of computer software, food products of inferior quality and the list goes on," he told Bernama.
Mohd Yusof called for the public to be on guard at all times as the fraudsters have grown bolder and sophisticated in dishing out their cyber crimes.
"Please do not fall into their trap. Never reply to such e-mails for the sake of satisfying your curiosity.
"Once you are conned and had parted with your money, it would not be easy to prosecute these fraudsters especially if they operate from overseas," said Mohd Yusof.
In information communication technology (ICT) the word 'phishing' is used in relation to cyber frauds and scams.
According to the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, 'phishing' means criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.
It said communications purporting to be from popular social web sites like You Tube and Facebook, auction sites (e-Bay), online banks or IT Administrators such as Yahoo are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting.
The encyclopedia went on to say that phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging and it often direct users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.
The first recorded mention of the term 'phishing' was reported in 1996.
SCAM AN OFFENCE
On the home ground, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission had received complaints on phishing since 2004. In 2008 alone, it received 86 complaints on phishing.
According to the Commission, e-mail based scams that contained elements of cheating such as collecting money from the public is an offence under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
The sentence carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment one year (1) to ten years (10) together with mandatory whipping, and the courts have the discretion to further impose a fine.
The Commission said investigation on the e-mail based scams falls under the purview of the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and not under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 or SKMM.
However, the Commission said it could take immediate action to block access to phishing sites under Section 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Anyone who is not sure over the authenticity of an Internet banking site can refer it to the Commission.
In addition, it said the Commission and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do cooperate with PDRM in any investigation relating to cases of e-mail based scams.
"The most important thing the consumers have to remember is not to disclose any personal information and to exercise extra caution when receiving e-mails that purportedly said that the recipients have won lottery or competition, received money from a lucky draw or that requesting donations.
"One should treat e-mails from unknown person with caution. Besides scams, e-mails may also contain viruses and other 'malware' (malicious software)," the Commission told Bernama.
It said consumers could also install anti-phishing filters that alert them to reported phishing sites.
It added anyone who received suspicious e-mail believed to be a scam is advised to report the matter to the police or alternatively, consumers can lodge a complaint or refer suspected Internet sites to the Commission's Consumer Complaints Bureau online at http://aduan.skmm.gov.my or telephone 1-800-888-030.
Complaints can also be lodged via fax to 03-8688 1880. Complainants can also write to the Consumer Complaints Bureau, Communication and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Off Persiaran Multimedia, 63000 Cyberjaya, Selangor.
The Commission also advised Internet users to observe the following:-
Ensure that no one has access to your computer or online activities.
Always log out of your e-mail or any online transaction immediately after completion and before visiting other web sites.
Do not send any information about your personal or banking information such as account numbers, bank balances, PIN (personal identification number) via e-mail.
Is it safe to shop online?
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