Lao netizens are now contending with a surge in scams perpetrated through social media platforms, giving rise to what’s being termed a “scamdemic.” This troubling trend involves victims paying in advance for products advertised online but never receiving them.
The “scamdemic” poses an increasing challenge in Laos, particularly on social media platforms where vendors showcase products for sale online. Unfortunately, once victims make payments, the promised products fail to reach them. A quick scroll through Facebook reveals numerous such scams occurring daily, with affected individuals seeking help either to secure delivery or obtain refunds.
The allure of scamming is heightened by easier access to international markets, including China and Thailand. Unscrupulous individuals usually take product information on e-commerce platforms like Lazada from Thailand, Shopee from Singapore, or Taobao from China to repackage and promote them as their own.
Some unscrupulous actors market these products at inflated prices, falsely claiming superiority over existing market offerings, while others adopt a tactic of selling at rock-bottom prices under the pretense of sales or promotions. However, the common denominator in all these schemes is the absence of actual products, robbing victims of their hard-earned money.
One Facebook user, for instance, took to Facebook to caution others about a scammer named Souvanan Soudthavilay. According to the post, this individual tricks people into paying for products and promptly disappears.
Another recent incident involved Tamany Lachini Shop, which alerted users about Thip Mala, a fraudulent Facebook account posting the shop’s products. Their warning stated, “This is a scammer’s Facebook account; don’t fall for their trap.”
These incidents are just a glimpse into a much larger issue, underscoring the alarming repercussions of the current state of the Lao economy, where some people are going to extreme ends to fraudulently earn a living.
So far, none of these perpetrators have been held accountable by the government to demonstrate some degree of control over the problem. At present, there are no established channels for victims to seek compensation as well.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is responsible for overseeing customer protection against scams and deceptive advertisements. According to the Ministry, consumers can call their hotline, 1510, to file complaints or charges. For non-Lao consumers, complaints can be sent to the Lao Consumer Protection Facebook Page.
Nevertheless, prior steps can be taken by residents to avoid falling victim to scams, as Laos lacks an independent entity to aid consumers in making informed decisions.
First and foremost, it’s imperative to scrutinize the seller’s track record when making online purchases in Laos. Check their sales history and assess their reliability by reviewing comments and reviews about their shop on social media platforms.
Secondly, investigate whether the seller has a history of involvement in scams. This can be done by searching their name on Facebook and reviewing their previous posts.
Lastly, if you have any doubts about a seller, refrain from making a purchase from them. Chances are, there are other sellers offering the same product who are more trustworthy and reliable.