In 2020, one in three people in Southeast Asia experienced online fraud amid a boom in online shopping and activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Asia-Pacific has the highest number of internet users in the world, so the opportunities for scammers were already aplenty before the crisis of 2020.

Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage of the crisis for their own nefarious gains. The Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council saw a 57 percent increase in suspicious transaction reports from January to August 2020, compared to the previous year. Clearly, the increase in online activities served as the perfect backdrop for increasingly nuanced racketeering efforts by financial crime syndicates, who targeted everything from the boom in deliveries to interest in the stock market and even the vaccine program to fleece consumers.

With banks offering record-low interest rates, consumers are turning to alternative places to put their money. Scammers lure…

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