The STAR online
Gullible Malaysians lose RM35mil to syndicate in lucky draw scam
By LOURDES CHARLES, KUALA LUMPUR:
Gullible Malaysians have lost a whopping RM35mil in the past seven months to an international syndicate in an elaborate SMS scam. Police learnt of the huge losses after 163 cases were reported since January. Forty people were detained recently in connection with the syndicate, based in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which has been operating here since 2006. “We believe the syndicate members raked in about RM5mil a month just by sending out SMSes to the Malaysian public, claiming that they had won a lucky draw. “Our investigations revealed that the syndicate either used a local or Hong Kong cellphone number,” Federal Commercial Crimes Investigations director Comm Datuk Ramli Yusof told The Star. He said the syndicate had devised at least seven types of SMS scams. It is learnt the syndicate in Taiwan had raked in an estimated $280mil Taiwanese dollars (RM29.7mil) in the past few years. At least 19 Taiwanese suspects had been detained in the past few weeks in Xiamen and Fujian provinces in China. The syndicate’s modus operandi is to send out SMS in Chinese to selected cellphone numbers informing the victims that they have won a lucky draw. They are to contact the number to collect their winnings, usually nothing less than RM100,000. The message is normally accompanied by two cellphone numbers – a local and a Hong Kong number. In order for the victims to collect their prize, they must first pay a fee – being legal, insurance and membership expenses. Some of the SMS scams are: VICTIM receives a call that he or she has won a lucky draw by an electrical company based in Hong Kong and that he/she needs to pay a 5% tax to retrieve the goods worth an estimated RM100,000; VICTIM receives a call from a Mandarin-speaking person saying that he/she has won a lucky draw contest and to contact the phone numbers given to collect the winnings. But he/she must pay a transfer fee to be deposited into an account. After depositing the money, the victim will be asked to contact another party to collect the prize. When the victim contacts the other party, he/she is asked to pay other charges; and, VICTIM receives a call from a person claiming to be a court official. He says the victim has failed to attend a court hearing. This will be followed by another call from a man claiming to be from Bukit Aman. The second caller informs the victim that he/she is involved in a criminal case and has to deposit a certain sum of money or his/her bank account will be frozen.