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In recent months, there have been many reports of Malaysians falling victim to online scams through fake home-cleaning services.
These scams target consumers who search for such services but end up having their bank accounts hacked instead. Victims have lost up to RM20,000, and losses can happen within minutes.
Here’s how some of these scams work. They usually start off with an ad on a popular social media platform such as Facebook, and these posts usually look similar to those shared by trusted brands.
To attract the customer, extremely low prices are offered for first-time users.
In Recommend.my’s investigation, over seven different ads for various cleaning companies were identified, all of which used the similar price of RM30 for four hours of cleaning work – an irresistible offer indeed!
Seemingly, a new scam Facebook page and its related ads are created once every two to three days. But they also get shut down pretty quickly, within a couple of weeks, which is plenty of time for damage to be done to unsuspecting victims.
All these ads on Facebook will ask you to click a button to launch a Whatsapp chat. A “sales representative” will explain more about the RM30 deal and how to book the service, which is usually done by installing their mobile application.
They then provide a link for you to click on to download this app. However, what you are installing is not a booking app at all – rather, it’s a scam app that will be able to read your SMS messages.
Essentially, you will have installed malware in your device.
When you launch the app, it will ask you to register a new account. Then, it will show you a booking form to input the date you’d like the cleaning job to be done.
It will thereafter redirect you to a “payment” screen. The credit card option will be unavailable due to supposed “technical issues”, so you are forced to choose FPX online transfer.
After choosing your preferred bank, you will be led to a fake bank home page to enter your username and password. These, of course, will be sent to the scammers, allowing them access to your bank account.
When the real bank system sends your phone an SMS one-time password (OTP) for verification, the malware app will intercept it and send it to the scammers.
So, how do you distinguish fake cleaning ads from real ones? Here are some things to look out for.
1. How many Facebook followers do they have?
Before clicking on any Facebook ad, click on the company name to view their business page. Make sure the page was not set up just a few days ago, and look at the number of followers they have.
A legitimate company that has been operating for a few years will have many posts and would have made the effort to grow their followers.
2. Do they have a presence outside of Facebook?
A proper cleaning-service company will likely have a website, with different ways to contact them such as email, phone, or WhatsApp.
They might also have a Google Maps business listing, or a listing on service directories such as Recommend.my, as well as social media platforms. Each of the latter accounts should have recent activity such as new posts and comments from followers.
They should also have customer reviews if they are listed on Google Maps.
3. Do they have a proper business registration or SSM number?
Any legitimate business entity will display its SSM number on its website, usually located in the footer.
An SSM number means the business has been through all the necessary and legal processes of being approved by the Companies Commission of Malaysia.
4. Can you pay by credit card?
A proper online home-cleaning booking form will have multiple methods of payment, including credit card, GrabPay, Boost, and others.
If paying by card, always use your credit rather than debit card. This is because credit payments are protected by Visa or Mastercard, granting you 90 days to report fraudulent or disputed transactions.
If you use a debit card, the money is deducted immediately from your bank account, making it very difficult for the banks to recover the amount if it turns out to be a fake transaction.
5. Can you install the mobile app from Google Play or App Store?
In the scam above, the scammers sent a link for the user to install the booking app. But if you have an Android phone or iPhone, you should be able to download these apps from the Google Play Store or App Store.
If the company sends you an installation without google.com or apple.com in its URL, it’s likely a fake app. Also, if it’s not available on either of these platforms, it could mean it was rejected by Apple or Google for containing malware.
6. Is it too good to be true?
If an offer feels like it might be too cheap, then it’s likely not real, even if it’s a “first-time special” for new customers.
Keep these above tips in mind and you should be able to spot fake cleaning apps and protect your bank account.
This article originally appeared on Recommend.my – Malaysia’s #1 Home Improvement Services Platform, offering a safer and more convenient way to hire the best home improvement and home maintenance professionals. From flooring to interior design to air-conditioner servicing, get access to thousands of the best local contractors and professionals at your fingertips.