Friday, November 11, 2011

Beware of 'bank officers' out to con you

Datuk Syed Ismail Syed Azizan
Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Syed Ismail Syed Azizan (second from right) speaking at a press conference after police busted a Taiwanese syndicate in Bayan Baru, Penang, in September.
SIPHONED RM18 million swindled from 811 victims. Police are concerned the number of victims will increase in coming months.

A businessman panicked when he learnt that his bank accounts would be frozen pending an investigation by foreign police. He quickly transferred RM562,000 into a "safe" third-party account.

He did this after receiving instructions from a "Bank Negara" official. However, within minutes of  transferring his money into the "safe account", he lost his entire savings.

The businessman was victim No. 811 of the infamous "Macau Scam", which has seen Malaysians losing a total of RM18 million this year alone.

Federal Commercial Crime  Investigation Department deputy director Datuk Rodwan Mohd Yusof said it was an elaborate scam, where the victims were tapped for personal details months before they were fleeced.

He said under the Macau Scam (involving spoofing), prospective victims were approached by people posing as police or bank officers. They would inform the victims that their bank accounts or credit cards had been hacked by third parties.

The victims were warned that if they did not transfer their cash to "safe" accounts, they risked losing all their money.

Rodwan cited  the case of the businessman as an example of how the scam worked.

The 44-year-old victim of Taman Subang Mewah in  Selangor received a telephone call several months earlier from the caller, who claimed to be conducting a survey. As a reward for speaking to the caller, the businessman was told that he would get a gift voucher.

The businessman gave the caller his particulars, including his identity card number and address.

Last month, the businessman received a call from a woman, claiming to be a bank employee.  She told him that a credit card under his name had been used, chalking up a bill of RM7,000.  He was  convinced as the woman had his name, address and identity card details.

The woman  gave the businessman the contact number of an officer, allegedly in Bank Negara Malaysia, whom he could call for verification.  When the victim called the number, the "officer" informed him that there were also other debts which had been racked up under the businessman's name.

The victim was told that his bank accounts would have to be frozen indefinitely pending an investigation and that he could transfer some funds to a "safe" third-party account until the probe was completed.

The businessman did as he was told and transferred RM562,000 to the third-party account. He only realised he was conned when he could not contact the "officer".

Rodwan said all the victims of the scam panicked when they learnt that their bank accounts or credit cards had been hacked by a third party.

"The syndicate used the prestige and name of the central bank to impress upon the victims the gravity and seriousness of the case.

"In some cases, where the victim was informed that his or her credit card had been used fraudulently abroad, the syndicate mentioned the names of the federal police of that particular country, like  the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Scotland Yard.

"The more well-known the reputation, the higher the chance of the victim acting first and thinking later."

Rodwan said the syndicate used Voice over Internet Protocol to monitor  incoming calls to the  "central bank" or "federal police"  number which they had supplied to the victim.

"When the victim calls to verify, a trained syndicate member will be ready to inform them that his credit card is being investigated in connection with a fraud case."

Rodwan said a day after the businessman filed his complaint, a 42-year-old contractor lodged a report at the Sungai Buloh police station, claiming he had been cheated of RM118,000.

Investigations revealed that the businessman had transferred the money to an account of a woman, while the contractor had deposited his money into an account in the name of a doctor. These two cannot be located now.

Rodwan advised the public not to entertain calls from unknown sources claiming to be conducting surveys, which required personal details such as identity card numbers or addresses.

Police disclosed that the name "Macau Scam" came about after they busted a syndicate operating here. Those arrested were from Macau.

Recently, Thai police arrested six Malaysians on Immigration offences, but investigations later revealed that the six were operating the "Macau Scam" from Thailand and their victims were Malaysians.

Four Taiwanese  caught in Penang last month were also part of an international "Macau Scam" syndicate, which targeted victims in China.  The syndicate, led by a Taiwanese, was believed to have cheated Chinese nationals of at least RM2 billion by tricking them into depositing money into third-party accounts. - NST

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