Learn to recognise and identify scams, so you don’t get cheated
The Macau scam is fairly well known today – unwitting victims receives a phone call from an individual impersonating as an official of a significant establishment or organisation and is told that there are outstanding loans or fines. The panic-stricken victim blindly follows the instructions given which normally results in the transfer of large amounts of money to a designated bank account to avoid trouble.
Although the Macau scam is well known due to wide coverage in the news and including social media, still many people are convinced by these scammers.
Scammers posing as Police Officers
Recently a banking agency in Malaysia lost nearly RM2mil after the manager was tricked by the same Macau scam syndicate who had posed as a police officer. The manager was told that she had been involved in a money-laundering activity and was asked to remit money to a new bank account in order to ‘facilitate an investigation by Bank Negara’ which she realised was a scam after the money had disappeared from the account.
Another example of the Macau scam syndicate at large was a teacher who had lost close to RM1.13mil after being tricked by a scammer who had posed as a police officer. The ‘officer’ convinced the teacher that her vehicle was involved in an accident and that she was party to a money-laundering case.
August 2019 news reports quoted Bukit Aman commercial crime investigations department director Datuk Seri Mohd Zakaria Ahmad who stated that an average of RM2bil each year was lost to Macau scams, e-commerce fraud and love scams. Thousands of Malaysians fall prey to these scams normally done via the Internet or phone calls.
Macau scams are further classified as telecommunications fraud in Malaysia. Criminologist and psychologist Association Prof Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat noted that victims easily fall prey to the scam because they do not realise they are being scammed.
She added that the syndicate members are cunning and expert in the art of deception and manages to convince the victims of their so-called authority to make the victims anxious and panic stricken hence willing to do whatever suggested by the scammers to avoid legal prosecution.
She added that the scammers, besides appearing to be credible also employs visceral approach to invoke emotional response from the victims who would then surrender to their threats and pressure.
Be aware of possible scam techniques
Geshina Ayu, a forensic science lecturer at University Sains Malaysia stated that the lack of interest among members of the public to recognise the techniques used by the scammers was also the reason to the increasing number of victims.
She added that in 2017, the police had identified four methods of operation of the Macau scam which are a victim is contacted claiming that they had won in lucky draws; pretending to be a government officer; pretending to be a bank officer; impersonating a kidnapper claiming to have kidnapped a family member and demanding a ransom.
However, data from official reports overseas revealed that the method of operation of the Macau scam has evolved and advanced.
Never provide bank details over the phone or email
Regardless their modus operandi, Geshina Ayu advices the public to not succumb to the threats and pressure by these syndicates and to not reveal their personal information, especially banking details. She also advised to regularly change the security parameters of personal hardware and financial transaction platforms such as online bank transfers.
She added that the launch of the Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department’s Semak Mule portal – https://ccid.rmp.gov.my/semakmule – enables the access by the public to cross check bank accounts or phone numbers having linked to criminal activities.
Money laundering, which is the act of hiding the origins of the money obtained is now more rampant, besides the Macau scams.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) detained 10 people last week, which included eight senior police officers – https://bit.ly/3nrheVR . The MACC also seized RM100,000 in cash which was connected to an online gambling, money laundering and Macau scam syndicate under investigation. It was alleged that the police officers involved were party to the syndicate to conceal its activities from the eyes of the law.
Datuk Seri Azam Baki, MACC Chief Commissioner stated that 730 bank accounts with funds totalling RM80mil were seized. The funds belonging to the members of the scam syndicate included 24 luxury cars and were seized by MACC as they allegedly had been purchased using money generated by this syndicate.
Nor Zabetha Muhd Nor, a lawyer stated that the police officers who were involved in the case may face charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act have tainted the integrity and reputation of the police.
Nor Zabetha Muhd Nor commented that Malaysia has sufficient laws and penalties to tackle the matter but the number of charged offenders are seemingly low. She said that fear will be put into the criminals if more of such cases are investigated and enforcement by the authorities and added that releasing the perpetrators will only encourage their pursuit of this immoral act.
In Malaysia, there are two Criminal Acts to charge scammers and money launderers.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Act 613), any person who (a) engages in or attempts to engage in; or (b) abets the commission of money laundering, shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five million ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years or to both.
Under Section 420 of the Penal Code, whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person faces imprisonment for a term not less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping, and also be liable to a fine.