Scams wreak havoc before Lunar New Year

By Luu Quy   January 11, 2023 | 03:24 am PT
Scams wreak havoc before Lunar New Year
Scams committed via phone calls and messages have been common in Vietnam. Illustration photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy
Kim Lien has been scammed of more than VND90 million ($3,837) in less than two days of taking on a part-time "data entry" job.

Lien of Hanoi said she came across an ad for the job on Facebook January 3.

She signed up for the job because she needed more money for her family before Tet (Lunar New Year), which falls in late this month.

"They claimed to be an educational institution and they were looking for someone to do data entry," she said. "But in reality, they were trying to trick me into ‘investing’ by asking me to transfer money to a bank account via a fraudulent website," she said.

The amount of money asked for was within her means, so she did what she was told and put down VND100,000 ($4.26) and VND1 million ($42.64) for the first two deposits.

She made a profit of VND300,000. That was only the beginning of the trickery.

A bigger investment package, worth at least VND8 million, was then offered to her. After transferring the money, the system gave her digital rewards with a total value of more than VND40 million in her web account.

To get the bonus, she had to make a deposit of the same amount by January 5 "to activate the bonus and get all of the money back."

Though she was feeling a bit suspicious, she was told that the offer would soon no longer be available and they would deactivate her account. So she decided to deposit twice as much as she was told, a total of more than VND90 million. She never saw any of the money again.

Pham Thuong, a university student in Ho Chi Minh City, also fell victim to online scammers and now spends her days worrying about getting bombarded with calls from loan sharks.

She needed money to get ready for Tet and pay her children’s school fees. When she got a call advertising a personal loan provider earlier this month, she followed the instructions they gave her to sign up for the service.

After visiting a website that looked like a financial service, she got suspicious and didn't complete the application.

Fortunately, she just put down her phone number and didn't provide her personal information when she started to fear it was all a scam.

"However, they must have known I needed money because they've been calling me non-stop for the past few days," Thuong said.

Part-time "collaborator" jobs and low-interest personal loans are just two of many types of scams that have taken advantage of desperate people in Vietnam over the last few years.

Since the end of December, the Ministry of Public Security has been sending out warnings about the types of scams leading up to this Tet holiday season. In cases, users are tricked into transferring money and/or providing their bank account information and personal information.

All of these scams use messaging apps like Zalo, Telegram and others to contact people and ask them to visit a website.

Scammers often pretend to be banks or financial institutions. Experts say that the goal of most of the above phishing methods is to get people to visit a certain website or download an app.

CyRadar, a local cyber security company, has reported that it detected more than 1.6 million malicious domains in December last year, 10% more than in the previous month.

Experts said that most of these year-end scams are frauds that focus on taking advantage of the Tet holiday, such as loan impersonation or online shopping promotions and rewards.

"Before Tet, many people have trouble making ends meet and need money to spend," said CyRadar founder Nguyen Minh Duc. Fraudsters use this way of thinking to make tempting offers. If a person isn't careful, he or she could lose big sums to these scammers.

Ngo Minh Hieu, founder of information security projects like "Chong Lua Dao" (Anti-Fraud), said that phishing domain names have been "growing like mushrooms."

He said a common scam in Vietnam is pretending to be a well-known financial service.

On January 8, his project found nearly 30 fake domains offering these kinds of services, and that number didn't include additional personal reports from users or security experts.

From December 2022 to January 4, 2023, the project found 995 pages created to misappropriate assets, and 482 others trying to steal information like bank account numbers, e-wallets details and credit card numbers.

Hieu says that in just the first week of the year, many users have reported being scammed out of anywhere from a few million to more than VND400 million via the above tricks.

Scammers are taking advantage of the increased year-end demand and use "Tet-related scenarios" to lure victims, many of whom are easily tricked or fooled in their desperation to have enough money for the holiday, according to Hieu.

According to a warning from the Ministry of Public Security, people should stay vigilant when signing up for online "collaborator" jobs. People should be careful and only input information on unofficial websites.

Cyper security experts say that users can install tools on their phone or browser to warn them when they visit a known phishing domain.

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