Malaysia and Singapore authorities have thwarted four syndicates behind an “Africa scam”, where more than 100 victims, mostly women, suffered total losses exceeding S$6.4 million in fake online relationships.
Thirty-four people have been arrested in various states related to the “Africa scam”, 13 of whom are Nigerians, according to the local authorities on Monday February 13th.
The scammers got to know their victims in Singapore and Malaysia through social media, usually under the pretext of entering a relationship.
At some point along the way, the scammers would tell their victims they were sending them gifts or even coming to visit them.
That was when things would go wrong – the victims would be asked to transfer money to bank accounts supposedly belonging to customs or immigration to secure the release of the gifts or the person themselves.
David Chew from Singapore Commercial Affairs Department said: “These [Africa scam] guys are on the Internet, posing as doctors, professionals, making friends with people around the world. The third one is once I become good friends with you, I can ask you to make investments, to give me loans. Of course, they never intend to return the money and when it’s time for them to pay back the money, they’re suddenly contactable. The modalities in which I can cheat a person who I trust is multifaceted.”
Police believe there are more scammers out there.
In 2016 alone, more than 2,000 investigation papers were opened over this type of scheme in Malaysia.
For example, in Australia, romance scams cost more money than any other form of cheating, with those aged over 45 more likely to be stung, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, head of Commercial Crimes Department, Royal Malaysia Police said: “These people are very good with the way they are tickling the feelings, the emotions, the hearts of the potential victims. So be aware.”
“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 added.
Photo: Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA)
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