Well, immigration officials may have busted one of the largest online fraudster syndicates operating in the country last week, but there are plenty of scammers to go around, as one 44-year-old Seremban woman found out the hard way.
State Commercial Crimes police reported that the middle-aged woman lost more than RM380,000 (US$90,000) in the so-called “Macau scam” after she made the unfortunate mistake of transferring over her savings to unscrupulous fraudsters.
Named only as “Tien,” she initially received a phone call claiming that she was under serious investigation by authorities for unspecified financial crimes. Denying she had anything to do with that kind of nefarious behavior, the woman told the person on the other end of the line that she was going to the nearest police station to verify the claims.
Now, had she done so, the cops would have told her to ignore the call, and things might have shaken out much differently. (After all, police don’t generally call you to tell you you’re under investigation; they show up to your house, take you down to the station, and hit you with a whole lot of paperwork.)
However, before she had the chance, the man on the phone claimed that the investigations were being carried out in the northern state of Penang, and that she would have to travel four hours by car to the island in order to “assist” in the case.
To spare her the purported trouble, the scammer then transferred Tien’s call to another cohort, this one claiming to be an officer from Penang who asked the victim to share her identity card details. The “officer” claimed the woman was suspected of money laundering activities along with another female suspect over a 2016 incident, and that central police headquarters Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur were now involved.
Her call was then transferred to a third suspect, this one claiming to be speaking to her from the Audit Department of the Malaysian police force, telling her that her four bank accounts needed to be “audited” — by which they meant drained of every last sen — before the funds could be returned.
It was only after making more than 70 transactions between her account and that of the scammers between Nov. 8 and 15 that Tien realized that she had been taken for a ride, and contacted the actual police.
While police will try to recover the victim’s cash, there is sometimes little they can do, and the money could be lost forever to the fraudsters.
So, just a reminder folks: Macau scammers get you by ringing you up and pretending to be some kind of authority figure – sometimes it’s a cop, other times it’s a bank official — and telling you to fork over money to settle matters via a quick and painless phone call. Don’t fall for it! If you get such a call, go visit your local police station or bank, and tell them. They should be able to sort things out.