The Ministry of Interior’s Anti Cybercrime Department said complaints related to online fraud cases increased by more than 60 per cent in 2022.

Department director Sok Nithya said authorities had investigated each case, though he did not specify the number of complaints.

“In 2022, we recorded an increase in complaints of over 60 per cent compared to the previous year, when Cambodia was battling the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told The Post.

“Technology advancement has made it easier for people to live their daily lives. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous criminals also use it to commit crimes. In particular, fraud through social media has appears to be evolving and becoming more sophisticated. This is a major problem that needs to be addressed,” he said.

On March 13, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on members of the public who use social media to be wary of scams after a Telegram account disguised as well-known businessman Khun Sea sent a message to him, asking that he transfer money to a bank account.

“These scams are becoming more commonplace. About an hour ago, I received a Telegram message in English asking me to transfer money ... The phone number was from Laos, but according to our investigations, the scammer was in Taiwan. He seemed to think that just using the name of a well-known businessman would convince people to transfer their hard-earned cash. Please, everyone, be careful,” he said in a two-minute audio address to the Cambodian public.

This was not the first time that Prime Minister Hun Sen has been targeted by online fraudsters. In 2022, similar cases were reported, and his family was once used by an unidentified source to attempt to defraud others.

Many social media users claimed to have been targeted by similar tactics, with some even losing money. The frauds were usually carried out through the use of fake profiles, often of real people.

Nget Moses, an independent consultant on digital security, said recently that social media scams are becoming more and more common, so people need to be aware of how to protect themselves.

“First, they should watch out for apps or websites that require them to enter their usernames and passwords. They should also be wary of pages or accounts that impersonate individuals. They may purport to be someone we know, or a celebrity, or even a legal entity like a large company or well-known brand,” he added.

“One of the other golden rules is to always bear in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it very likely isn’t. This applies in real life, but doubly so online. If someone offers an incredible investment opportunity – or loans with interest rates that seem far too low – please, do your research and make absolutely certain it is not just another of the myriad of scams that are going around.

He also warned of perhaps the least-reported type of fraud – the romantic scam.

“This is where a fake account is set up and used to befriend you – often with fake photographs. Once they have gained your trust, they will attempt to solicit money or information from you, or even tempt you to send them compromising photographs that could be used to blackmail you,” he warned.