“Scamdemic” Continues to Threaten Livelihood of Lao Residents

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FILE: this image is used only for representational purpose (Photo: Freepik)

Social media has become a prevalent source of communication and entertainment in Laos, especially with the rise of readily accessible electronic devices. However, due to late exposure to social media, combined with a rise of illegal hubs in the country, the threat of scams is becoming all too familiar.

The situation is highlighted by a recent scam incident that happened on 17 February, which saw Viengxai Phommachah, a resident of Nasone district, Vientiane Province losing around LAK 4 million (USD 200).

According to the victim, a phishing link was sent to him on Facebook’s communication platform, Messenger. Upon clicking the link, the victim was brought to the BCEL One app, where he was prompted to undergo BCEL’s authentication by scanning his fingerprint . 

About three minutes later, all the money was transferred out of the victim’s account.

Screenshot of transactionn receipts from the victim. (Photo: Viengxay)

 

“Until now, I have tried contacting the bank but they are unable to help. I feel scared to put money into my bank account now, it is making me stressed,” Viengxai says.

Although the BCEL One app has a function in which three security questions must be answered before a transaction can be completed, the security system does not apply to transactions being made to business accounts and could be the reason why the scammer was not met with security questions. However, it is not known where the money ended up due to the transaction having crossed-over between banks.

While phishing scams are becoming more widespread in Laos, social media users are also cautioned to watch out for e-commerce scams.

The troubling trend usually involves unscrupulous individuals taking 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. Scammers then request victims to pay for the product upfront, however, the product is never delivered.

The rise in internet penetration and increased social media users in the country is giving way to a surge in scams perpetrated through social media platforms, giving rise to what’s being termed a “scamdemic.” 

While it is unknown how much victims have lost to scammers and scam centers over the years, it is crucial to adopt precautionary measures in order to avoid becoming a target of these scams.

The United States’ Federal Trade Commission suggests four ways to protect consumers from these scams, including using security software, setting software to update automatically, using multi-factor authentication, and backing up data.