Scammers in Malaysia trick victims by impersonating authorities via internet

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Movie spoofs may provide comic relief but "spoofing" scams are no laughing matter. They are serious crimes with Malaysians losing tens of millions yearly.

Scammers are now tricking unsuspecting Malaysians by boldly impersonating police officers and officers from the central bank, Bank Negara.

These technologically savvy conmen misuse Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) - a system for making voice calls over the Internet - to mimic their caller IDs.

They make it seem like the number they are calling from is a Bukit Aman (police headquarters) or Bank Negara line, or of any other agency, on the phone screen.

At least 2,000 people have been duped this way since 2012, resulting in more than RM60 million (S$23.5 million) in losses.

In some of the cases, the victims lost their entire life savings.

The scammers would call or e-mail potential victims on the pretext of warning them that their bank account has been compromised. Then, they advise them to transfer their money to a purportedly safe account.

Once the victims transfer the money into the account of the scammers, it is withdrawn and the conmen disappear.

The accounts are usually set up using fake identities.

Federal Commercial Crimes Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Mortadza Nazarene said the syndicates also used scare tactics to con their victims.

One such tactic is to tell the victim that they are calling from Bukit Aman and that his or her account had been used for criminal activities.

Other tactics include telling victims that they have won a prize but would have to pay certain "fees" to claim it.

"The numbers of tricks these conmen use are many and varied. They must have a guidebook on these scams," said Comm Mortadza.

He said it was alarming that, despite all the warnings from the police, banks and others, people are still falling for such scams.

Comm Mortadza said people should check with Bukit Aman, Bank Negara or their banks before transferring any money.

Comm Mortadza also warned about phishing scams in which scammers trick victims into clicking on Internet links sent to them via e-mail.

"These may lead them to a website that steals personal information, such as bank account numbers and passwords, or installs malicious software that enables the scammer to take over the victim's computer.

"A common trick is to send a victim to a spoof site that looks exactly like his or her bank's official website, which instructs the victim to type in his account details and password," he said.

Bukit Aman has detained some 180 syndicate members for such fraud over the past three years.