Our “Ask the Expert” column taps into the knowledge of digital commerce gurus to provide insights into commonly asked questions surrounding the industry’s trending topics.
More consumers have joined the digital economy in recent years, but this trend has led to an unfortunate rise in online scams. In fact, in Singapore, scams surged by 53%, making up close to half of all crime cases reported in 2021.
Among the most widespread types of online deception are job scams, including ones where fraudsters promise dubious offers and lucrative returns under the guise of affiliate marketing jobs. As scammers become increasingly sophisticated and leverage more technological tools for their illegal operations, consumers need to stay vigilant to protect themselves. We hear from Andy Chua, senior vice president for intellectual property protection and law enforcement at Lazada Group, to learn more about affiliate marketing scams and how to avoid them.
What is an affiliate marketing program?
It is where an individual or entity, also known as the affiliate, earns a commission through promoting another brand or company’s products. In the case of Lazada’s Affiliate Program, we collaborate with individuals and partners to drive traffic to our platform and increase sales for featured products. Affiliates can earn various tiers of commissions and even bonuses on products that brands want more visibility on. Anyone can sign up to be a Lazada affiliate.
How do scammers leverage affiliate marketing programs to deceive people?
Scammers leverage various platforms, including advertisements on social media platforms or unsolicited messages, to lure unsuspecting individuals with offers of part-time jobs as affiliate marketing associates. These fraudsters will usually make fake promises of lucrative returns, and their messages will be disguised to appear authentic. They will claim that the job requires individuals to make advance purchases on certain products to help eCommerce platform merchants improve their sales, and they will make assurances that their victims will eventually get their money refunded and also receive a commission.
The scammers often provide eCommerce product links to their victims and will instruct them to provide a screenshot of the items in their shopping carts. But instead of making the transaction on the eCommerce platform, victims would be instructed to pay for the items by transferring the money to a bank account number provided by the scammer. A lot of the times, the scammers will provide the initial refunds and commissions to gain victims’ trust. But they will eventually claim to have encountered issues with refunds and will stop paying victims before becoming uncontactable.
What should people look out for to prevent falling for these scams?
One of the most important things to look out for is where the conversations and subsequent processes are taking place. For example, registrations for the Lazada Affiliate Program are all done through the official website. All other communications and processes under the program are also done via Lazada’s platform or through emails with an official @lazada.com address and never in a third-party environment, like social media platforms or via text or instant-messaging apps.
Most reputable platforms and affiliate programs are conducted within a safe environment. If users suspect that a message or offer could be a scam, they should check and verify the source of the message and/or request for further communication to be kept to email – and make sure to check the address – or within the platform of the company they are communicating with so that the conversations can be officially tracked.
If the communicator requires users to sign up on a different website, transfer funds to an external bank account or purchase items outside of the platform’s environment, it is likely a scam, and the sender should be reported and blocked to avoid further communication. To prevent chances of becoming a potential scam victim, users should also never receive funds on anyone’s behalf. It is also important to warn those around them to be wary of unsolicited SMS or WhatsApp messages.
What is Lazada doing to stop such scams?
Users can report and notify Lazada about suspected scams by providing screenshots of any emails and/or messages and chatting with us via CLEO, Lazada’s AI-powered 24/7 virtual customer service agent.
Because most scams are conducted outside of Lazada’s safe environment, we also work closely with other external and relevant authorities to stop and prevent these crimes. For example, the Lazada business risk team works with law enforcement, telecommunication regulators and other industry stakeholders to tackle scams. We have also provided operational details to the police as well as put up multiple advisories on our platforms to raise more awareness about online deception.
In addition, we proactively educate the public on how to avoid scams and what to do in the event of suspected fraud. Our efforts in tackling online scams have been recognized with a full four-tick rating from the Singapore Government’s Transaction Safety Ratings, and we were also awarded the Singapore Police Force Community Partnership Awards for the second year in a row.
For more information on scams, members of the public can visit www.scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam hotline at 1800-722-6688. You can also report information related to such crimes through the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.
WATCH: How to spot and avoid job scams
Andy Chua is an experienced brand protection professional. He started his career at the Singapore Police Force, where he served 17 years in various roles, most notably leading a team in the Intellectual Property Rights branch. He left the Singapore Police Force in 2012 and had stints with Microsoft, Under Armour and Moët Hennessy. He is currently the head of intellectual property protection at Lazada Group, where he oversees the company’s brand protection program across Southeast Asia.
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