Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Costly cyber love affair

Costly cyber love affair
UCHING: A local beautician lost over RM1.3 million in an intricate online ‘romance scam’ involving a group of foreigners and their local female accomplices.

Sarawak Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) head Supt Mohd Firdaus Abdullah said police have so far arrested nine Nigerian men and eight local women, with five more local women currently being tracked down, since a police report was lodged by the victim on April 22.

“Following a police report lodged, we arrested two local women here on April 25 and later nabbed nine Nigerian nationals in Kuala Lumpur with assistance from Bukit Aman CCID,” he said during a press conference here yesterday.

Further investigation led to the subsequent arrest of six more local women between the ages of 21 and 54 — among them a roti canai seller — with five more women currently on the CCID wanted list.

He added the Nigerians, comprising a businessman and eight others who were registered at higher learning institutes, are believed to be the mastermind while the women were accessories to the crime.

According to MohdFirdaus, the ‘romance scam’ began four months ago after the 34-year-old victim, who is married with children, visited an online dating site and struck up a relationship with someone who she thought was a Caucasian man.

They began a relationship over the Internet for about four months, but never once physically met each other, before the Caucasian man offered her business and investment prepositions in which she stood to gain RM7.8 million.

“After patiently wooing her and then reeling her in with the non-existent business offers using forged documents, the Caucasian claimed the deal was in peril and needed her financial assistance to ensure it did not fall through.”

The beautician then proceeded to make a number of deposits to the tune of RM1.3 million over a period of three months, and would have probably continued doing so had bank officers not informed her that one of the accounts she had planned to deposit money into, had been barred due to suspicious activities.

It was only at that point she sensed something was amiss and decided to lodge a police report, which not only led to the multiple arrests, but also the seizure of two computers, a laptop, 13 mobile phones, 14 SIM cards, four ATM cards, forged documents, as well as numerous deposit and withdrawal bank slips.

When asked about the roles of the female suspects in the scam, MohdFirdaus said some of them would pose as lawyers or bank officers during conversations with the victim over the phone, while the other women acted as bank account ‘mules’.

Account mules, he explained, were akin to drug mules except that the former would allow their bank accounts to be used for criminal activities in return for financial rewards.

All the suspects have been remanded for further investigation under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating.

MohdFirdaus also disclosed that based on bank records of the suspects’ accounts, police believe there are more women out there who may have also fallen victim to the same scam, which he said was a form of ‘non-confrontational’ crime.

“For example, we discovered the roti canai seller had four large sums deposited into her account in a single day from another person. We believe others have also been cheated by this group, but are perhaps too embarrassed to lodge a police report,” he added.

In terms of losses, he said the beautician’s loss was the single biggest reported in the state this year, which saw a total of 197 similar cases involving some RM6.8 million in losses reported from January 2010 to May this year.

He said it was disturbing to note that despite numerous warnings issued by the police through the media, many people, especially women, were still falling victim to such scams.

“Do not put yourself in situations which make you vulnerable to the scammers. Never believe offers made to you over the Internet, even from so-called friends. Always remember, if something appears too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Present with Mohd Firdaus during the press conference included state CCID deputy head DSP Yap Fui Lee, state CCID Intelligence and Operations officer Inspector Pricha Azin and investigating officer Inspector Nazrul Hisyam Mohd Ali.

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June 26, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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