China's online population made an estimated loss of 149.15 billion yuan (24.42 billion U.S. dollars) in 2013 by falling victim to Internet-based scams, according to an Internet Society of China (ISC) survey on Wednesday.
The figure was a conservative estimate, according to the survey, which also showed around 55 percent of victims lost cash below 100 yuan and 13.4 percent had lost more than 600 yuan.
Online shopping was the major risk area, with money being swindled through scams via text messages, malicious charging on prepaid cell phone accounts and Internet fraud.
Meanwhile, smartphones carried the bigger risks compared to desktops and laptops, showed the survey, which was released at an annual Internet conference in Beijing. Data showed 77 percent of the country's netizens were going online via smartphones as of June.
The scams come amid the emergence of Internet technologies.
ISC Vice President Gao Xinmin said at the conference that the Chinese online population hit 608 million as of September, covering 45.4 percent of the total population.
Online users created 1.8 trillion yuan worth of retail sales in the past year, according to ICS data. This accounts for 8.5 percent of 21.13 trillion yuan worth of total retail sales reported in the first eleven months of 2013. December data is scheduled to be released on Jan. 20 by the statistical authority.
Online retail sales are forecast to grow to 3 trillion yuan by 2015, which will account for 10 percent of shopping transactions, according to the data.
Major Internet firms have been scrambling for bigger market share by offering payment services.
On Tuesday, China's leading microblogging service provider Sina Weibo opened a payment service in cooperation with Alipay to rival Tencent's WeChat. Alipay is the most widely-used third-party online payment solution in the country while WeChat has become the most popular multi-media app combining instant messaging, content sharing and payment.
A Weibo user will be able to pay directly for a meal via his or her Weibo account on their phone by scanning a restaurant code.
Data showed transaction value via mobile payment services had hit 274.79 billion yuan in the third quarter of 2013, up 185.3 percent from the previous three-month period, according to the China e-Business Research Center.
"The Chinese Internet economy is in the face of a new wave of rapid development," Gao said.
He added that as a transaction platform, the Internet has become a key distribution channel attracting more companies to e-commerce.
However, ISC vice secretary-general Shi Xiansheng said that the protection of netizens' interests should be prioritized as Internet technologies rapidly develop.
Shi said the government should build a long-term and effective protection system and standardize regulations. Meanwhile, technologies must also be improved to safeguard the financial security of the growing online population.