The National Police’s Anti-Cyber Crime Department has called on social media users to be wary of messages advertising opportunities to win rewards after observing a recent increase in the proliferation of scams on platforms like Telegram and Facebook.

In a Facebook post on January 20, the department said some users had recently received a message claiming: “I won a reward just for answering some questions! You should do it now before the prize presentation ceremony ends!”

The department determined that all the messages were scams to tricks users and elicit cash or valuable data from them. Some messages require victims to send money first with a promise that doing so will enable them to receive prizes. Instead, they are cheated out of the money and sometimes PIN numbers or other payment information.

Scammers often claim that users have won prizes such as computers and mobile phones via Telegram with automated chat-bot programmes known as “Classiscam”. The ploy was first detected in Russia in 2019 by cyber-intelligence company Group-IB and had subsequently spread widely in the US and EU.

Researchers estimate that there may be upwards of 5,000 nefarious actors seeking to defraud social media users. Anti-cyber crime officials have advised the public not to believe offers with claims of winning prizes.

“Please don’t click on such links or share them. They are a waste of your time and money,” the department said.

Deputy National Police chief and spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said on January 20 that the instructions were issued because the scams represent a threat to the general public, and it is necessary for people to be cautious.

“We have issued a public advisory because of a real threat to public security. The department only makes announcements like this for issues that constitute significant risks. We will not raise public alarm over trivial matters,” he said.

“I cannot attribute a specific level of danger to this threat, but we have exposed a risk that concerns the public interest, especially safeguarding people’s interests from losses,” Kim Khoeun added.

Digital security consultant Nget Mose told The Post on January 20 that social media scams do not occur exclusively in Cambodia but have been a problem around the world for years. Unscrupulous individuals sought to take advantage of the rising use of social media, especially Telegram.

He warned social media users to ignore messages on their mobile phones that offer congratulations for winning prizes. Anyone seeking to collect the prizes will be victimised, he said.

“Ordinary company workers and members of the public may not be aware of these kinds of scams and can be tricked into divulging personal information. When such messages appear, don’t open them. Don’t give out personal information for any suspicious purposes,” he said.

“When these cases occur, company employees should seek assistance from technicians in their firms to address the issue. But ordinary people without such resources should ask the anti-cyber crime department for help,” Mose said.