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Balancing Act: Navigating Convenience And Online Safety In The Fight Against E-Commerce Scams


Online buying-and-selling is such a way of life now that it’s easy to forget how awkward it was just a few years ago. While we were already heading down this road, the pandemic kicked this process into overdrive. In fact, we might be so bold as to say it triggered a seismic shift in the way we conduct everyday transactions, from social connection and news consumption to business, banking, and commerce. Basically, the prefix ‘e-’ was added to just about everything! 

While some of us adapted quickly, others found the transition from face-to-face transactions to using just our fingertips quite challenging, to say the least. (Remember all those phone calls from our parents asking how to use one app or another?)

All jokes aside, the influx of people on digital platforms also meant there was a huge pool of new – and often naïve – users, blissfully unaware that their participation in the digital economy could also make them targets of malicious scammers.

Within the broad category of online scams, e-commerce scams in particular saw a rapid increase. Data from the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of Polis Diraja Malaysia (CCID, PDRM) revealed 3,512 cases in 2019, which jumped to 5,850 in 2020. The upward trend continued, with 9,545 cases in 2021 and 9,258 in 2022, and there looks to be no stopping it, with the current cases at 7,911 as of 31 August 2023.

What’s worse is, the losses due to e-commerce scams have also been rising exponentially, from RM28 million in 2019 to RM140 million in 2022. With almost RM144.8 million already recorded as of 31 August 2023, it looks like we’re going to break another record. 

What can we do to buck this trend?

Sadly, we’ve all been there before. Ordering things online and having them delivered right to our doorstep is definitely convenient. Combine this with the Malaysian love of a good deal and we have a deadly combination where we are more likely to get scammed and cheated out of our hard-earned money.


This can be a painful experience for some, while others like Ena Rahim are more fortunate. Ena has been a user since 2012 and utilises the platform to rehome cats, formerly sharing images and videos directly to interested parties. However, when she received a call from a foreign telephone number with an unfamiliar code, it struck her as odd. Subsequently, they requested for the cat to be sent overseas but did not provide payment. Following that, they asked her to arrange and cover the local courier fees herself.  

“Since then, I have gotten wiser. I will check telephone numbers and bank accounts on PDRM’s Semak Mule site and block foreign numbers. Now, I also keep all my chats on because it is so much safer,” said Ena. “I think it is a really good initiative for and PDRM to help educate people about scams, and it is very helpful to have a source like #MudahDanSelamat where people can learn about how to keep themselves safe from scammers.”

Unfortunately, many people think it just won’t happen to them and let down their guard, making it easier for scammers to gain their advantage. At the same time, scammers are highly skilled at manipulation. These are things the authorities as well as e-commerce platforms like have seen again and again.


“Over the years, as scammers grow more sophisticated, has also evolved and developed more tools and functions to identify and block scammers, we have enhanced our security and created a dedicated Trust and Security Team to help keep users safe,” said Gaurav Bhasin, CEO of “These include a comprehensive array of security features which we have successfully managed to block fraudsters’ ads from going live by 92% in just 7 months, reduced unwanted chats from 15% to less than 1% and cut scam reports from 300 to 50 a month.”

Some useful tips to keep yourself safe online:

#1. Be suspicious of any deal that seems too good to be true. Basically, don’t act out of FOMO (fear of missing out) because that is what scammers are counting on.

#2. Buy and sell on responsible platforms like that protect users’ safety with effective security features.

#3. Conduct your own little amateur investigation – look up reviews from other users to get an idea of whether the seller or buyer is reliable and use the Semak Mule website to check if their bank accounts are linked to scams. If you use, you can click on to link directly to Semak Mule, the first online platform to do so.

As Ena’s experience shows, scams work both ways: scammers can pose as buyers as well as sellers, so it is important to never let your guard down, no matter how tempting an offer may be. Common modus operandi used by scammers are as follows:

Victim = Buyer Victim = Seller
  1. Suspect/seller offers goods at a very low price (“too good to be true”).
  1. Victim/seller advertises goods for sale. 
  1. Victim/buyer contacts suspect regarding goods and gets pressured to make payment immediately as the deal is for a limited time only.
  1. Suspect/buyer claims to be overseas and indicates interest for mass purchase, then sends a fake receipt which shows an excess amount banked into the victim’s account.
  1. Victim makes payment but goods are not delivered as promised.
  1. Suspect requests the seller to return the excess amount paid urgently. Victim promptly banks in the excess without checking if the amount has actually been banked into his/her account.

At the end of the day, scammers are everywhere. They can be highly inventive and provide convincing explanations to keep you hooked and make even suspicious requests that seem reasonable. So, unless you are willing to avoid online transactions forever (tough!), the risks will always be present and we just need to practise constant vigilance with a good dose of suspicion, and make use of any and all safety features to keep scammers at bay. 

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of scams, you can call the National Scam Response Centre (NSRC) at 997 (0800 – 2000) or hotline (24/7) and lodge a police report at any police station.

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