KUALA LUMPUR: Police have reminded the public not to fall for phone scams or “Macau scams” that are carried out by syndicates.
This follows the growing number of cases of people fooled by calls from syndicate members impersonating police officers or employees of financial institutions.
Federal police corporate communications chief Datuk Asmawati Ahmad said the Macau scam syndicates originated from Taiwan and China, and used international lines locally or from Hong Kong.
The way the scam was carried out, or its modus operandi, could be divided into four categories, she said recently.
These were: lucky draws, ransom demand, spoofing by claiming to be a police officer or a government agency personnel, as well as spoofing by claiming to be employees from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) or commercial banks.
“Spoofing is a technique where a caller will communicate using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This allows the caller to use a random number to hoodwink the receiver,” she said.
Asmawati said the syndicate members would pose as bank officers and call potential victims, claiming that they had failed to pay a certain amount of outstanding credit card payments.
“Victims are directed to call the number of a fake BNM officer to avoid getting blacklisted (by banks) or have their bank accounts frozen.
“Victims were then duped to make transactions to a specific bank account through e-Banking or cash deposit machines.”
Asmawati said the syndicate members usually accused the victims of being involved in illegal activities, such as organised crime, moneylending syndicates or drug trafficking.
She said the scammers would ask their victims to transfer a sum of money by claiming that the their accounts would get frozen by the authorities.
“Besides that, syndicate members would scam victims by claiming that their children or relatives were kidnapped and the victims are forced to pay ransoms to third party accounts.
“When it comes to lucky draw scams, con artists usually tell their victims they have won a lucky draw worth a million dollars from Hong Kong or Macau businesses.
“When the victims are interested in the money, they are fooled into transferring money into certain bank accounts before claiming the ‘prize’,” she said.
Asmawati said once the transactions were successful, the victims would not be able to contact the scammers and would not receive the money as promised.
She outlined a five-point note to people who receive such calls:
BE alert and cautious when receiving calls from unknown numbers ;
DO not panic and blindly follow instructions given by the caller without first calling police or financial institutions to check ;
DO not return calls. Instead, get the official number of companies, organisations or institutions that purportedly made the contact ;
DO not expose bank account numbers, automated teller machine card numbers or credit card details; and,
CHECK on the BNM website for latest updates on financial fraud.
Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) senior vice-president Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said there were reasons why many Malaysians continually fell prey to investment scams.
Lee said it was easy to see that, despite such scams being widely highlighted in the media and police issuing warnings, the urge to gain quick and vast returns was irresistible.
“The reasons really are straightforward, especially under the current economic climate where many are facing harder times to make ends meet, to the lure of quick returns can be more irresistible,” said Lee.
“Firstly the urge to make quick returns and be able to secure some wealth at a faster rate is the main reason. This, coupled with skillful scammers, who are good at convincing people to part with their money, is the reason why we see such large numbers of such cases.”
He said rural folk, who are unassuming and less savvy in recognising scams, were especially susceptible to such schemes, where in some cases victims were found to have even borrowed money from relatives, apart from parting with their savings before realising they had been conned.
“Secondly, such scams are effective because of greed. These are people who just want to get rich quick, so they invest their fortunes and then find out they have been duped by these sly operators,” said Lee.
“And then there are those who are willing to take a gamble.
“They put their money in a scheme knowing the risks. But they will end up the losers, every time.”
Reports by : ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL, FAISAL ASYRAF, TEOH PEI YING and ALIA MIOR