RM83mil lost to ‘love scammers’ so far this year

KUALA LUMPUR: Lonely, middle-aged women who fell victim to a “love scam” run by a syndicate on the internet have lost a total of RM83.6 million this year, police said.

Chief assistant director of the cybercrime/multimedia investigation unit in Bukit Aman Ahmad Noordin Ismail said the losses involving love scammers were on the rise.

“Last year, 1,652 cases with total losses of RM61.9 million were reported. So far this year, 1,301 cases have been reported but the total losses rose to RM83.6 million,” he said at a news conference at Bukit Aman today.

He said police arrested 25 suspects in a swoop on six premises in the Klang Valley on Sept 6.

They comprised 15 men and five women from Nigeria, four men from Tanzania and one Thai woman. They had been running the scam since last year.

The police also seized laptops, ATM cards and mobile phones from them.

Ahmad Noordin said police found a list with 1,500 names of victims and potential victims on just two of over 20 gadgets seized.

He said some of the people on the list were in the process of being swindled.

Describing their modus operandi (MO), Ahmad Nordin said the scammers would first befriend the victims, mostly middle-aged women, on Facebook to gain their trust, before asking for their mobile number to contact them via Whatsapp.

After establishing a romantic relationship, he said the scammers would then ask for money by giving various excuses.

One scam was to tell the women that a package of jewellery or valuables they sent to their victim was being held up at an airport or post office, and required payment of a fee before it could be released.

They would then ask their victim to transfer some money.

“This MO is not unusual from all the previous cases we have seen before,” said Ahmad Noordin.

He urged other women who might have been swindled this way to make reports and assist in the investigations.

The public should also remain cautious while using the internet, he added.