A family of scammers have been on a “donation” collection spree allegedly to raise money for their 33-year-old cancer-stricken daughter warded in a hospital in Thirichy, India.
They claimed their daughter needed RM400,000 for an operation to remove her uterus and for post-surgery treatments, failing which she would die as the cancer was spreading quickly.
That scam, however, has apparently been going on since at least 2014 and the family has allegedly raised some hundreds of thousands of ringgit in funds, aided by social media influencers who were duped into helping them.
The 60-year-old “mother” of the alleged cancer patient and her 28-year-old “brother” have even approached VIPs, non-governmental organisations, politicians and newspapers for help.
The girl’s “story”, in fact, has even made the headlines in a few Tamil media organisations, appearing again about a month ago.
Most recently, the scammers tried to pull the same stunt by seeking help from a local TikTok content creator who has more than 260,000 followers, called V Muralitharan from Pandan Jaya.
Several police reports have been made against the scammers by Muralitharan and also the public who donated.
Speaking to the New Straits Times, the 31-year-old TikTok influencer, who is a grocery shop owner who goes simply by Murali, said he was reluctant at first to highlight the “plight” of the family.
However, after getting constant calls and messages from the mother, he agreed.
Murali said another reason he agreed to do a TikTok video on them was because he, too, had lost his mother to cancer some years back.
“At that time, they were going door-to-door asking residents and business operators near my shop for help. When they approached me, the woman ‘fell’ on my legs, crying and she looked very pitiful.
“I had no intentions of seeking public donations for her, but they kept on calling me daily until I agreed to meet them on March 20. During the meeting they showed me a 19-page hospital report, newspaper cuttings and letter of support from politicians and even photographs of them giving her the money,” he said.
He added he even spoke to a man who was purportedly the doctor in India who was treating the cancer patient, on a number provided by the mother.
“When I asked, why couldn’t the hospital transfer Gayathri to a Malaysian hospital for the medical treatment, the ‘doctor’ said she was not fit to travel. Only then did I make the video with them highlighting their plight,” he said.
The mother’s plea on that video was widely shared on various social media platforms and they collected RM308,000 within a day.
However, little did they expect the TikToker would go out of his way and do additional checks on the alleged case.
“I became suspicious when I called them the next day for an update of the funds received in the bank account. They did not want to reveal how much was in the account until I pressed them for it on the next day.
“I felt I had the right to ask because I have a responsibility towards my TikTok fans who contributed and wanted an update about how much they had received,” he said.
Murali said the hesitation made him go through the hospital bills and reports repeatedly.
“The first check with the Harshamitra Hospital using the number provided in the hospital letterhead, before the video, did not raise any flags. But my sister and I felt something just wasn’t adding up and combed through the documents again and again. That was when she noticed that the telephone number and email on the website and that on the letterhead the woman provided was not the same.”
Murali’s sister Sivasangary tried calling the hospital on the number from Google to inquire about Gayathri but no one by that name was admitted there.
“My sister gave the reference number provided in the hospital’s bills and report details only to be told they were all fake. We immediately lodged a report at the Pandan Perdana police station and took the necessary measures to freeze (the mother’s) account on suspicion of it being a scam.
Murali said he then waited for official confirmation from the hospital in India that no such patient was admitted there and when he received it, he lodged another report.
In another video after his findings, the TikToker is seen explaining how he was scammed by the family. He apologises to his fans for trusting the pair and promised to return all the money that was donated.
Murali said when the matter was confirmed to be a scam, the woman immediately denied having any knowledge about it.
“She conveniently pushed all the blame to her daughter, whom she alleged had lied to her,” he said, saying that the woman allegedly lodged a report against her daughter in Sentul.
Murali, who was visibly upset when talking to the New Straits Times, says he regretted trusting the woman’s crocodile tears and his actions of making the video for them.
Meanwhile, Selangor police chief Datuk Hussein Omar confirmed receiving Muralitharan’s police reports, adding that the case was being investigated under Section 420 for cheating.
“The investigation just started (on Tuesday). We will view all the reports made pertaining to this case in the course of our investigations.
“For the time being, we will call Murali and team. Then, we will call the family for their side,” he said.
Hussein did not discount the possibility of contacting their counterparts in India, where large amounts of cash from the previous donation collections had been regularly sent.