According to Bernama, 1750 people in Malaysia have fallen victim to online love scams since January 2013, amounting to a total loss of RM68 million. The Malaysian Federal Commercial Crimes Department director Datuk Seri Mortadza Nazarene added that out of the 1750 people, 1295 were female.
The numbers are very likely much higher than reported, since some victims are too ashamed to come forward with their claims or don’t know where they can report to. These crimes should be reported to CyberSecurity Malaysia at firstname.lastname@example.org. An online report can be lodged here by filling in the form.
How Do Scammers Work?
There are some common tactics used by scammers to hook in their victims. Most would question why someone would be so gullible to fall for these scams. However, the scammers’ modus operandi works on the emotions of the victims. This does not happen overnight. The scammers develop a relationship with the victim online for a period of time. Eventually, the exchanges become more intimate. The scammers might start professing their love for the victim. Eventually, the scammers would ask for pictures (which may be lewd in nature). Once a relationship has been formed (this may take up to six months!), the scammers will provide a cover story to get the victim to send money to them.
Some of the commonly used cover stories that scammers use to extract money include:
- The scammer claims to have sent a package to the victim which is held at customs. The victim will need to bank in a certain amount of money to “release” the package
- The scammer claims to be in dire health conditions and needs money immediately for a surgery
- The scammer needs to borrow some money in order to buy flight tickets to visit the victim
- After flying to meet the victim (complete with fake flight ticket pictures), the scammer then says they are being detained by the immigration officers and require a sum of bribe money to be released
- The scammer says they need money to maintain communication with the victim
A newer form of scamming in Malaysia was reported in thestar.com early this year, where the scammer did not stop even after being discovered. When the victim failed to bank in the money needed to release the parcel detained (see example 1 above), the scammer threatened to contact Interpol and tell them she was involved with terrorists. He further added that the money was meant for terrorists, prompting the woman to part with RM6,000.
The progress of the story that led to their loss may differ, but the result is always the same, and it is never pretty. The man/woman loss huge amounts of his/her hard-earned money to online love scammers. The pain burns deeper than the mere loss of money. There is also the loss of trust and heartbreak that follows after realizing they have been scammed.
How Can You Detect A Scammer?
Online dating scams, also known as “catfishing” can appear in many different forms. Avoid being catfished! The scammer will create a fake profile using photographs of kind-looking people and chat with the victim. The fake profile can be easily discovered by doing a reverse image search of their profile pictures by using Google images or by right clicking the image and select the option to “search Google for this image”.
Often, scammers claim to be from a different country than the victim with promises to return soon. Scammers are usually unfamiliar with the landmarks and attractions of the place they are from. This can be used to spot a scammer.
When in doubt, trust your guts. When something starts to feel wrong about your online chatting partner, talk to your friends and family about it. Often, scammers try to isolate their victims from their friends and family, claiming that they would not approve of the relationship. The victims’ closed ones are usually informed much too late when the victim runs out of funds to send to their ‘lover’ and asks for help for funding elsewhere.
If it feels like a scam, it probably IS a scam. Never give out bank account numbers, passwords and other personal information to someone you met on the internet. You probably shouldn’t give those out to just anybody in real life as well! People lie and cheat all the time. Don’t be a victim.