Taiwan is No.1 destination for scams targeting Singaporeans who book holidays online: McAfee

(Getty Images file photo)

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans booking holidays to Taiwan are most vulnerable to scams, said computer security company McAfee on Wednesday (12 June).

Taiwan, followed by London, Bali, Hong Kong, as well as Tokyo and Kyoto, are the top six holiday destinations for Singaporeans that hackers target via potentially malicious sites and generate the riskiest search results.

“Taking advantage of the high search volumes for accommodation and deals in these popular destinations, cybercriminals drive unsuspecting users to potentially malicious websites that can be used to install malware, steal personal information and even capture passwords,” said McAfee.

McAfee’s WebAdvisor site ratings were used to determine the number of risky websites generated by searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo, which included a top holiday destination and search terms likely to yield potentially malicious websites in the results.

An overall risk percentage was calculated for each destination using the total number of risky websites divided by the number of search results returned, it added.

An online survey polling 500 residents in Singapore, commissioned by McAfee and conducted by market research company 3Gem in May, also showed that almost one in three respondents (29 per cent) reported being scammed or were nearly scammed when booking a holiday online.

Almost half of the scam victims reported losing between $1,000 and $7,000. A third of such victims were also scammed after spotting a great deal which turned out to be fake, said McAfee.

Noting that 30 per cent of the respondents book holidays through email promotions and pop-up ads, Shashwat Khandelwal, head of South-east Asia consumer business at McAfee advised the public to validate deals, holiday rentals and flights directly via trusted brands’ websites.

“Once they’ve validated its authenticity, all communication and payment should be conducted via that trusted platform to help keep personal and financial information out of hackers’ hands,” he said.

The survey also found that about a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents do not check the authenticity of a website before booking a holiday online, with close to one in three (28 per cent) admitting that they do not know how to do so.

About 45 per cent of the respondents connect to an unsecured network while away or do not check the security of their internet connection.

This is a concern as the respondents used devices for data-sensitive activity such as Google Maps (76 per cent), e-mails (67 per cent), as well as managing money through a banking app (28 per cent), said McAfee.

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