Scam is in the Air

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Cheating cases involving online dating are on the rise and Malaysia, Singapore and Australia have been put on a love scam alert.

  • 27 suspected of cross-border Internet love scams arrested
  • Suspects believed to have cheated 108 Malaysians and Singaporeans of around RM21.6m in 2016
  • Modus operandi of romance con artists – promises of love and companionship
Singapore Police Force

We have read about it countless times in the newspapers, how people seeking love in cyberspace have been cheated. So you would think that with all the public awareness, people would be less gullible in falling prey to romance scammers. Sadly, the opposite is true. Cheating cases involving online dating are on the rise and Malaysia, Singapore and Australia have been put on a love scam alert.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian and Singapore police said 27 suspects believed to be involved in cross-border Internet love scam syndicates have been arrested. Eleven of the suspects are Nigerians, whose country is notorious for offshore financial swindles.

The joint operation involved the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID), Royal Malaysia Police, Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). It was conducted in several Malaysian states from Feb 6 to Feb 8. Evidence seized in the operation included mobile phones, computers and ATM cards.

The suspects, aged between 22 and 67, are believed to have cheated 108 Malaysians and Singaporeans of around RM21.6 million in 2016.

Singapore Police Force
Singapore Police Force

CCID director Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said the victims were from both sexes, with 65 from Malaysia and 43 from Singapore, and included elderly people.

“We believe there are more such syndicates operating in Malaysia. The police will hunt them and nab the culprits,” he said. “The syndicate members involved in the romance scam use powerful words and emotions to prey on the lonely victims by using text messages only, and never face-to-face or phone communications.”

Suspects found guilty of cheating could be jailed for up to 20 years.

According to SPF’s 2016 crime statistics released recently, Internet love scams in Singapore hit an all-time high. There were 636 cases, up from 385 in 2015. The total amount cheated was also the highest by far at RM75 million – double the RM38 million cheated in 2015.

CAD director David Chew said online scams are increasingly complex and transnational in nature.

“To the criminals who think that they could hide behind the cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet to perpetrate fraud, we want to send a deterrent message that crime does not pay,” he said.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), romance scams cost Australians more money than any other form of cheating, with those aged over 45 more likely to be stung.

“Romance scammers are getting increasingly manipulative so if you are going online this Valentine’s Day to look for love, it’s absolutely vital that you’re able to recognise the warning signs,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.

“Scammers create very believable profiles, including stealing the identities of real, trusted people. If you meet someone who seems too good to be true, do some research to see if they’re the real deal,” Rickard said.

The modus operandi of romance con artists is to lure victims with promises of love and companionship and then getting the victims to part with their money.

Singapore Police Force