Wednesday, July 17

Beware of sweet-talking strangers


Police recorded 102 online love scams in Sarawak throughout last year involving over RM5.8 mln in losses

Moliza (left) shows Fatimah the statistics from her department regarding the various scams as (from second left) Rosey, Harden, Sahar and Noriah look on. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: Love-related scams continue to plague society despite such cases being constantly highlighted in the media, with older women more likely to be targeted on account of their perceived financial stability.

Sarawak Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) deputy head DSP Moliza Tauk said data compiled by the department based on police reports lodged found that women aged in their 30s to their 60s are particularly vulnerable to such scams, with the latest victim being a 65-year-old.

According to her, there were 102 love scams reported in Sarawak throughout last year involving over RM5.8 million in losses.

“We urge Sarawak women not to fall for strangers you encounter on social media. They will sweet-talk you and woo you until you fall into their trap.

“When it comes to love scams, older women are more prone to being targeted because the perpetrators view them as being more financially stable, particularly those who are about to retire and enjoy their pension,” she told a press conference organised by Minister of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah at the ministry’s office in Petra Jaya, here yesterday.

According to Moliza, some victims are in fact aware of such cases, having read or heard of it through the media, but still refuse to believe that they had fallen for the same scam.

“They would rather continue to believe the sweet words from their online ‘lovers’ and willingly hand over their life savings. Once that happens, the perpetrator cuts off all communication and it is then that the victims come to their senses.”

She said the modus operandi of love scammers would be to first establish contact with their target via social media and woo them for a period of time, without ever meeting face to face.

“The victim is often led to believe her online lover lives in a ‘Western’ country and is financially well-off. After the so-called relationship has gone on for a while, the perpetrator would inform her that he had mailed her expensive gifts or even cash as a sign of his love.

“Later, the victim would receive a call from someone claiming to be from the Customs Department or a courier company, and told that she would have to pay various fees in order to claim her parcel of gifts.

“And because the woman is so in love, and desperately wants to get hold of the gifts, she would transfer whatever sum of money she has to an account number provided without even suspecting anything,” she said.

Moliza pointed out that even though love-related scams are still under control in Sarawak, it was nevertheless important that women across the state be aware that such scammers are constantly trawling through social media platforms such as Facebook and WeChat in search of potential targets.

“We would like to advise women to be careful who you befriend on social media. If someone you don’t know ‘adds’ you or sends a friend request, just ignore it. Never believe everything you see or read on social media.”

On another type of scam – the so-called Macau Scam – Moliza said both men and women are vulnerable, with the department recording 209 victims and over RM830,000 in losses in 2018.

“For Macau Scam, the modus operandi is usually the same where the victim is contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer, Customs officer, lawyer or bank officer.

“They would be told that they either had an outstanding loan or are involved in a crime or court proceeding, and that it would be best if they transferred their money into another bank account as their own account would be frozen for investigation.”

In such cases, Moliza reminded those receiving such calls to remain calm and to never do what the caller said, even if they raised their voice or issued threats.

“Just simply end the call and block the number so that they cannot call you again. Lodge a police report on the matter and you can also go to your bank to get more information,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Narcotics Crime Investigation Department head Supt Sahar Abdul Latif, who was also invited by Fatimah to the press conference, said his department is currently ramping up efforts to curb and combat drug-related activities throughout the state.

He said from 2017 up until March this year, police have carried out 294 operations under ‘Op Bersepadu’, adding that one of the key focus areas is combating student-related drug activities in schools.

“Between February and March this year, about 118 school students had tested positive for drugs.

“The focus is of course to go after the pushers who are supplying the drugs to the students.

“We will not tolerate pushers who target school students because we view students like our own children,” said Sahar, adding that police have nabbed 13 drug pushers targeting schools since January this year.

He said in 2017, Sarawak ranked 12th in the country in terms of drug cases; it has moved up two places in the first quarter of this year.

“Public awareness is crucial in the fight against drugs, and it is encouraging to see communities now getting very bold and brave to channel information on drug-related activities to the police for action,” he said.

Aside from Fatimah, those present at the press conference included Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus, Assistant Minister of Community Well Being Datuk Francis Harden, and Women and Family Department director Noriah Ahmad.