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KUALA LUMPUR – After being cheated out of RM65 by an online seller, a 19-year-old student became an amateur detective and found 106 others who were also scammed by the same person.

Lee (not her real name) said this individual managed to swindle a total of RM12,094 from all the victims.

She also managed to find the owner of the bank account into which some of the victims deposited the money.

This man, she said, claimed he was not aware his account was being used for the scam.

“He said that he gave his details to another person for investment purposes,” she added.

Lee said she had deposited the money into the account as payment for a handphone cover after seeing the “promotion” on Facebook.

“The cases were pretty, so my friends and I decided to place orders,” she said at a press conference held by MCA Public Services and Complaints Department chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong.

Lee said the seller insisted she banked in the RM65 into the account as soon as possible, after claiming the offer was about to expire.

She made payment on May 13 but didn’t receive her purchase, and the page was deactivated at the end of May.

Lee said the Facebook page was activated again on June 4 but the seller ignored all her messages.

She compiled the names of all the other victims, the amount of money lost and reports made with the police and Bank Negara Malaysia.

Knowing the seller had other Facebook pages offering the same item, Lee sought Chong’s help to stop others from falling victim to the online scam.

Chong said the public needed to be careful with online purchases and advised them to buy only from licensed businesses.

“You should also read reviews of the sellers before buying from them so that you know they are genuine,” he said.

This year alone, Chong revealed, he had received five complaints about online scams. Collectively, he said, the victims had lost RM71,394. – The Star Online

PETALING JAYA – Reports have emerged that a couple allegedly responsible for a pyramid scheme that swindled over 400,000 people in China of 30bil yuan (RM19bil) have fled to Malaysia.

Quoting various media reports in China, Nanyang Siang Pau said the couple – a 26-year-old Chinese national and her Malaysian husband – started a foreign currency investment scheme in Shenzhen promising high returns early this year.

With the slogan “earn USD without lifting a finger”, their company, IGOFX, attracted over 400,000 members within a few months.

However, by early June, the company was said to have collapsed.

The woman, allegedly the mastermind of the scheme, had been unreachable on both WeChat and her handphone since June 11.

On June 30, nearly 100 investors gathered at the Shenzhen police station to appeal to the Chinese government to help them recover their investments.

China Press reported that investors had also lodged police reports against the company in the cities of Nanjing and Changzhou in Jiangsu province, Shijiazhuang in Hebei province as well as cities in Zhejiang and Hubei provinces.

It added that a photo of an investor cutting his or her wrist was also posted in their WeChat groups.

The daily claimed that IGOFX, said to be registered in Vanuatu, had feigned credibility and legitimacy by sponsoring both sports activities and car races.

On Wednesday, the China Embassy in Malaysia issued a statement reminding investors in Malaysia and China to choose proper, legal and mature investment channels.

“Chinese citizens should take sound measures to protect their own interest to maintain the healthy development of the regular investment relationship between the two countries,” it said.

It also advised Chinese nationals to retain all evidence and resolve the issue through legal channels should they discover that they have been deceived.

When contacted, Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said Malaysian police had yet to receive any information about IGOFX.

“But we are ready to collaborate with our Chinese counterparts within the legal framework,” he said. – The Star Online

A 60-year-old man has been arrested for his alleged involvement in a series of promotional package scams centred on popular ride-hailing apps Grab and Uber, said police on Tuesday (28 March).

In late February this year, several victims lodged police reports about cheap Grab and Uber promotional packages. They were introduced to the scheme by friends who had come across these promotions by word of mouth.

The victims were asked to contact the seller via Whatsapp, and instructed to transfer money to bank accounts to purchase the packages. However, they were unable to redeem the rides after making payment. Subsequently, the seller also became uncontactable.

Following extensive investigations by officers from Bedok Division, the suspect was arrested last Friday. Investigations are ongoing.

Police advise members of the public to purchase rides only from official sources and to always exercise caution when purchasing items at prices that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722 6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg.

Anyone found guilty of the offence of cheating may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 10 years. – Yahoo! News Singapore

JOHOR BARU: The remands for the son of a Johor executive councillor, his special officer and two others have been extended for another seven days until March 9 to aid in investigation into a land scandal.

The extension is to assist investigation into a land scandal that purportedly reaped millions of ringgit by converting bumiputra lots to non-bumiputra lots, which can fetch much higher prices.

Two developers, who were arrested earlier, were released Friday on a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) bond.

The six suspects were brought to the Johor Baru court at around 9am on Friday in six separate cars.

Magistrate’s court registrar Hafizah Johor Ariff Johor allowed the remand to be extended.

It was reported that the six suspects, including the eldest son of state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Abd Latiff Bandi, as well as his special officer, were nabbed by the MACC on Feb 24.

Anti-graft officers uncovered the plot after sifting through stacks of documents seized from the state government and developers, who were implicated recently.

Also seized during the sting operation were 21 luxury cars and five high-powered motorcycles from luxury brands such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Range Rover and Harley Davidson.

A total of 45 bank accounts with RM15.5mil belonging to the six suspects has been frozen.

Latif has also gone on leave until further notice after MACC officers grilled him for four hours on Tuesday.

 

DHAKA: A family in Bangladesh has been arrested after using a fake penis to trick villagers into believing a genie had performed a sex change on their teenage daughter, police said Wednesday.

Villagers in southern Bangladesh rushed to the family’s home seeking miracle cures after hearing the genie had changed the girl’s sex and performed a circumcision as proof.

But police smelled a scam, and took the 15-year-old to a hospital for an examination.

“A doctor examined the teenager and discovered a fake penis tied to her waist,” Monzur Murshed, the local police chief, told AFP.

“The girl and her parents have set up a profitable business promising to heal people with a genie.”

As news spread that the girl had not only been transformed but undergone a mystical circumcision, villagers flocked to seek the genie’s intervention with their own medical woes, Murshed added.

The three will be charged with fraud and prosecuted, police say.

Roughly 90 percent Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Muslims, who believe in the existence of djinns, or genies.

Many Bangladeshi healers claim they can communicate and befriend these magical beings, or possess the powers to bottle evil spirits.

Gullible villagers pay to seek the divine intervention of genies to fix their medical problems or marital issues. -AFP
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PETALING JAYA: What could have been Malaysian band Estranged’s greatest career high turned out to be its most damaging low, as a promised slot in a major London music festival turned out to be a scam by a local con artist.

On Dec 4, The Star reported that the band had been offered a slot to perform at the Apple Music Christmas Festival in London at the end of this year, alongside big names like Metallica, Radiohead and more.

However, a statement issued Friday by the band’s lawyers clarified that the said festival does not exist, and that the band had fallen victim to a Malaysian con artist.

“We have just discovered that the said Apple Music festival does not in fact exist,” read the statement.

It said the con artist was a Malaysian who misrepresented herself as a publicity manager from Apple Inc’s London office.

The band was initially reluctant to publicise the embarrassing turn of events for fear it would affect its image but did so to ensure that other Malaysian artistes do not go through the same ordeal.

“We have decided to come out publicly because we understand that this con artist is now approaching other musicians. We cannot in good conscience keep quiet and allow other musicians to fall prey to her,” they said.

The band added that the incident affected them so badly that they even considered breaking up and cancelling its upcoming Malaysian tour.

“But we have decided to be strong for the sake of our fans, and will continue with our musical journey with a stronger resolve to be the best we can,” said the band.

Formed in 2001, Estrange’s current lineup comprises lead vocalist Rich Gimbang, and guitarists Din Hormatov and Nor Hanafi Noor Hadi.

The band’s biggest hit to date is 2008’s Itu Kamu, which won the Best Song Award at the 22nd Anugerah Juara Lagu.

MUMBAI: In late September, a woman in National City, California, received a voice message on her phone saying she was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over “tax evasion or tax fraud”.

Panicking, she rang the number and told a man who said he was from the IRS: “I can pay $500,” half the sum demanded. “I could do a payment plan. I just can’t pay all of it at once.”

“Ma’am, you can pay $500 today itself. You can do that?” the man asked, adding that lawyers would look at her accounts and work out a monthly payment plan, but she had to pay half now.

In transcripts of the conversation that investigators shared with Reuters, the man told her to keep the phone line open and drive to a nearby grocery store, where she bought $500 worth of iTunes gift cards and gave the ‘agent’ the redemption codes.

She had just been scammed – one of at least 15,000 people the U.S. Justice Department says lost more than $300 million in an “enormous and complex fraud” running since 2013. The department last month brought grand jury charges against 56 people in India and the United States for “telefraud” scams run from fake call centers in India.

Investigators have arrested 20 people in the United States, and Indian authorities have made 75 arrests following October raids on three premises in the Thane suburb of Mumbai. Charges include conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.

Indian police say they are looking for Sagar Thakkar, a man in his early 30s also known as Shaggy, who they believe masterminded the scam. Thakkar was also among those named by the U.S. Department of Justice. Reuters was unable to contact Thakkar for comment; he is not known to have a lawyer, and police believe he fled to Dubai last month.

“We are trying to complete the procedure to issue a red corner notice for Thakkar,” Parag Manere, a deputy commissioner at Thane police, told Reuters, referring to an Interpol arrest warrant.

Police said Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting 5-star hotels and driving expensive cars with proceeds from the scam. He gave one, a 25 million rupee ($365,000) Audi R8, to his girlfriend. “We have seized an Audi car, and are trying to find other assets of Thakkar,” Manere said.

The FBI, which is involved in the investigations, declined to comment. The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment for this article. At a news conference last month, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said the U.S. would seek the extradition of suspects in India, and warned others engaged in similar schemes they could face jail terms.

In interviews before the U.S. charges were filed, police, suspects and call center workers in India told Reuters how the scam was run.

Training materials and taped conversations, which investigators believe were made by call center instructors for training purposes, shed some light on an operation aimed to exploit the aged and gullible.

“TAUGHT TO BE TOUGH”

“The revenue was unpredictable. Some days were good, some were bad,” Haider Ali Ayub Mansuri, who said he managed operations at one fake call center, told Reuters as he was returned to jail in India last month after a court extended his custody. He is among the 75 arrested by Indian police.

“On a good day, we extracted as much as $20,000 from a single U.S. citizen,” he said.

In India, the sheer scale of the operation surprised many.

For months, hundreds of young men and women worked nights at several call centers in Thane. Callers posed as IRS officers and threatened their victims, often newly-arrived immigrants and the elderly, into paying fictitious tax penalties electronically – sometimes by buying gift cards and turning over the redemption codes, Indian investigators said.

“They used to blast out pre-recorded messages to thousands of citizens who were asked to call back. When they called back, there was a center just like this,” said Manere at Thane police.

Acting on a tip-off, police raided premises in early October as call center workers settled in for their shift. The buildings housed seven call centers, and over a few days more than 700 people were detained. Most have since been released, but told not to leave the city.

Callers bullied their victims with the threat of arrest, jail, seized homes and confiscated passports.

“There was one instance where an old lady was crying,” because she didn’t have the money to pay, said a former call center worker who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “But we kept insisting on the money. We were taught to be tough,” he told Reuters.

On a follow-up raid in Ahmedabad, 500 kms (310 miles) north of Mumbai, police uncovered what they believe was “a nerve centre for these centers,” said Manere. “A lot of money has been transacted. It’s been going on for a few years.”

The police raids found little in the way of documentation, beyond some training materials. Another former worker said this was likely because call center managers stopped employees from bringing pens and phones to work.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the accounts provided by call center workers.

WEEKLY INCENTIVES

Another former worker, an economics graduate, told Reuters she took a job without knowing what the center did. The 12,000 rupee ($180) monthly salary was well below the going rate for a graduate, she said, but it was a job, and “people aren’t hiring.”

She said several of her colleagues looked as though they had just left high school.

Her first week was spent in training with floor managers. While callers spoke to their victims, she said dozens of trainees squeezed in around the room, and had to memorise pages of dialogue for use on calls.

Another former employee said his instructors told him his work was illegal, but there was “nothing to worry about.”

Callers made “fast money”, another former caller told Reuters. In comments confirmed by investigating officer Mukund Hatote, the worker said: “For every dollar you brought in, you were given two rupees (around three U.S. cents).”

People wanted to leave rather than be involved in something they suspected was illegal, he said, but carried on because managers offered weekly incentives, such as cash or gadgets, for meeting their targets. – Reuters

SINGAPORE: Two Malaysian men were on Wednesday given jail terms for their involvement in a parcel scam, which has seen 348 victims lose more than $19mil (RM57mil) as of end-August.

Suhaimi Jaffar, 36, was jailed for 20 months, while Mohammad Afiq Ishak, 24, was jailed for 18 months.

They had opened bank accounts in Singapore for the sole purpose of receiving money from victims of a syndicate, which is responsible for running a scam commonly referred to as the “DHL parcel scam”.

Both men pleaded guilty to one charge each under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

Suhaimi and Afiq are the first two men involved in the scam to be sentenced. The cases for 10 other people are at the pre-trial stage. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network.

LABUAN – A 33-year-old woman lost a total of RM18,000 after being lured through Facebook that she had received a gift and cash amounting to USD600,000 from abroad.

It all started when the woman, a sales advisor accepted a ‘friend’ request and got to know the person purportedly named Yong Liu.

On July 10 before ending their chat, the man told her that he would be sending her a gift.

Two days later on July 12, she received a call from an unidentified woman at 10.38am informing her that a package had arrived for her from abroad and that she was required to make customs tax clearance for it.

She received a text message from the same number instructing her to pay RM4,500 to an individual account. Unwittingly, she made the bank transaction at about 12pm the same day, said Labuan police chief Supt Adzhar Othman today.

He said the victim received a second call from the same person at 1.30pm the same day, asking her to pay another RM13,500.

“She was informed that the package was being kept by Customs because it contained US currency, which is illegal under the law. She again credited the money into the same account.

“On July 13, the victim received another call from the same person who told her that the package contained USD600,000 and asked her to bank in RM150,000 into a company’s account.

“Finally the victim suspected that something was amiss and immediately called Subang Jaya Customs Department. She was told that it was a scam and was advised to lodge a police report,” Adzhar said.

The case is being investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code. – BERNAMA

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Illegal foreign exchange trading (forex) and gold investments are the pick of Malaysians out to make a quick buck, according to Bank Negara.

These were among the investments offered by some 271 companies which under the central bank’s laws and regulations are deemed “unauthorised and unapproved”.

Bank Negara’s Financial Consumer Alert information section compiled the list of companies and websites based on complaints received.

Updated as of June 7, the list is accessible at http://www.bnm.gov.my/index.php?ch=en_financialconsumeralert&lang=en#con_alert and is intended to act as a guide to Malaysians considering investing in “too-good-to-be-true” schemes.

“The public are advised not to place any deposit or investment with individuals and entities not regulated under the relevant laws.

“They should conduct the necessary checks with the relevant authorities if there are doubts regarding any scheme offered,” Bank Negara advised.

The central bank cautioned against investment schemes promising high returns with low risks involved, and those which guaranteed the return of the principal amount invested.

Bank Negara said the golden rule should always be “if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a lie”.

“Deal only with licensed financial institutions and authorised dealers,” it stated.

“Don’t be pressured or rushed to invest. Be extra careful with investments over the Internet.”

The people must be sceptical of any investment opportunity not made in writing, it further advised.

The central bank said if investments were already made, the person concerned should keep copies of all the investments and communications made.

It said consumers should be careful when dealing with unregulated entities or individuals as there would be consequences.

“Consumer protection under the law administered by Bank Negara is not applicable, should members of the public choose to deal with illegal financial service providers.

“Those who participate in illegal financial activities could also be charged under the law for abetting operators of such illegal activities,” it added.

On Sunday, MCA Public Services and Complaints Department chief Datuk Seri Michael Chong alerted the people against getting involved in what was known as the Nanning investment schemes.

The Star reported yesterday that dozens of Malaysians were heading to the southern Chinese city to invest in the supposed property boom there, with Chong revealing that many had fallen prey to the investment scam.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar also spoke out against such schemes.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Com­mercial Crimes Investigation Department (CCID) deputy director (Investigations) Comm Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa said police had yet to receive any report on the Nanning scheme.

Urging victims of the scheme and other get-rich-quick scams to lodge police reports, he said multi-level marketing related reports would be forwarded to the Domestic Trade and Industry Ministry as it came under the purview of the ministry.

Comm Tajuddin said police had a list of dubious companies involved in scams but said the list was not ready for release.