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LETTER | According to the police, Malaysians lost RM305.9 million through scams between 2021 and August 2023. Who is responsible?

In Malaysia, almost always, the consumers are held responsible. He or she is blamed for their greed, fears, ignorance or lack of digital skills. Thus, when people lose money, they have to bear the full financial responsibility.

Yet, what if others were also at fault? For example, what if the bank had failed to send outgoing transaction alerts to consumers? Should they be also held partly responsible?

In many developed nations, banks are often also held accountable if they fail to implement appropriate measures to protect consumers from scams.

More recently, our neighbour, Singapore, through the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is developing a Shared Responsibility Framework.

The MAS acknowledges that the responsibility of preventing scams should not lie solely with consumers but also with industry stakeholders.

In fact, MAS has stated clearly that the industry players bear responsibility for scams ahead of consumers if they fail to meet prescribed anti-scam duties.

They suggest a “waterfall” effect with banks being held responsible, then the telecommunications companies and finally, consumers.

Most certainly, consumers must exercise vigilance at all times and take preventive and precautionary measures to protect themselves.

For example, this would certainly include not clicking on any unsolicited suspicious links, although consumers may have difficulties in clearly identifying with certainty what exactly a “suspicious link” is.

Links in the past that were scams included maid services and purchases of vegetables. It is certainly not easy to clearly identify “suspicious links”.

Bank Negara Malaysia has already imposed certain measures and guidelines that banks need to adhere to protect consumers from scams. These measures could, of course, be further strengthened.

Some progressive banks have installed these BNM measures as well as implemented additional measures to mitigate the risks to consumers. Yet, others have been slow to act.

MAS has set out discrete and well-defined scam duties for financial institutions and telecommunications companies.

Failure to fulfil these duties would render these companies responsible for compensation to their customers. Such a move will certainly incentivise financial institutions and telecommunications companies to strictly uphold the desired standards of anti-scam controls.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) suggests that BNM similarly develops well-defined anti-scam standards that banks must strictly adhere to.

Failing in the case when a customer is a victim of a scam, the financial institution should share the responsibility and bear part of the losses suffered by the consumer.

Holding banks responsible would certainly incentivise the financial institutions to implement the proposed measures to ensure enhanced consumer protection.

Perhaps, local banks should go further and play a greater role in financial literacy programmes, especially focusing on how consumers could identify possible scams and more importantly, how to protect oneself from scams. Awareness against scams should be an ongoing awareness process.

Interestingly, MAS also is exploring the role of telecommunications companies in preventing scams. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) should also look into the role of telecommunications companies in mitigating the risks of scams to consumers by imposing anti-scam measures by the firms.

Consumers should certainly exercise vigilance to protect themselves from scams.

But clearly, as the global community is beginning to recognise; consumers are not the only ones to blame. Financial institutions and telecommunications companies equally share the blame.

Writer is the deputy president of Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.