Published on: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Kota Kinabalu: Cyber crimes caused a total of RM183million losses in the country with love scams or parcel scams making up 40 per cent of the bulk.
Police Cyber and Multimedia Crime Investigation Division Deputy Director ACP Ahmad Noordin Ismail said despite numerous awareness campaigns, the number of cases continued to rise from 814 in 2012 to 1,095 cases last year.
The total losses were RM33.6m in 2012 and RM35.7m a year later.
"These scammers, mostly Nigerians, prey on lonely vulnerable women.
They are trained in special schools on how to talk, seduce and get the money.
"Just two weeks ago, we found out about a woman who had been giving money to her 'boyfriend' whom she met over the Internet, to the extent that she used up her children's education funds.
"We intercepted her at the airport because we were told she was about to make another deposit for this 'boyfriend'. We told her it is a scam.
We did not just advise her, we begged her not to give the money!
One of my officers even held onto her arm and begged her, 'please don't do it'.
"She told us it is her business and asked why should we care?
She had spent more than RM100,000 for this man and had never met him before," said Ahmad.
He said the problem with victims is their refusal to admit that they have been duped out of shame. Scammers would play with people's emotions and motivations.
Generally, he said, Malaysians have the tendency to be greedy, gullible, unaware and lazy when it comes to increasing their knowledge.
"Why do people keep falling for scams like the ones that claim you have inherited a certain amount of money from someone you have never heard before in your life? If you have never known a person named Abouwe, why would he leave you his money when he died? Ask yourself this.
People just look at the amount of money, in millions usually, and their minds begin to fantasise," he said.
Those who took the bait through these scam emails, said Noordin, will then be instructed to deposit a certain amount of money as 'processing fees'.
By the time they realised it was a scam, it would be too late.
"People keep asking themselves, 'what ifÉ'. What if it is true, what if I really won the lottery although I swear I never bought a lottery ticket in South Africa? When would it stop? The moment this person started asking for money, that is the cue to stop! Instead, people lose money, not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands. After draining all their life savings, they take loans from families and friends," he said.
Noordin recalled that only three years ago, a group of people operated a parcel scam just by setting up a 24-hour calling centre in Marina Court.
The group was raided by Noordin's team and found out that the scammers had been swindling China and Taiwan citizens of more than RM10 billion.
"These people are professionals. They have scripts, what to say when you said A or B," he said, adding that while culprits can be charged in court, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get the victims' money back.
A local company reportedly lost RM954,000 after the company's email was hacked. The money was transferred to a different account instead of the intended account.
Noordin said in cases like these, police can only charge account holders unless they could prove the real culprit was the one who sent the emails that led to the loss.
"Where did they get your information? Your Facebook, Twitter, any social media. Just Google your name and your Facebook page will pop out.
That is why, we should be very careful when putting out our personal information on the Internet.
"Change your passwords frequently. Do not use passwords that can be easily guessed like your birthday. Use different passwords for different applications. Update your antivirus application. These are some of the steps you can take to prevent hackers from stealing your information."
He also cautioned the public not to easily trust those who claimed to have called from the police station or immigration. "There was a case of a man who was contacted by someone who claimed to be an immigration officer.
This scammer told the victim that the latter left something at the airport.
"However, in order to reclaim the item, the victim had to pay a few hundred. Now I would like to remind you, no government agencies or officials are allowed to accept money from the public. If there is any, you need to file a report.
"Government agencies or officials will ask you to come to the office and pay at the counter and give you receipts.
None will ask you to deposit the money into their bank account," he said.
According to the statistics, a total of RM42m over two years was lost through this scam.
Other scam tactics are SMS/Phone Call (RM10.5m), ATM (RM17.6m), Internet banking (RM850,000), phishing (RM2.3m), purchasing (RM23m), network misuse (RM150) and email hacking (RM17m).