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Sunday, July 31, 2022

That internet love bird? Just scammers working in shifts


A criminologist says that victims are oblivious to the fact that they have fallen into a complex web of lies.

PETALING JAYA: A 64-year-old woman who lost RM5.29 million recently has become the latest person to fall victim to a love scam carried out by an organised syndicate.

Police said on Thursday that the woman had made 120 staggered transactions between January and June, clearing out her savings and then taking a loan from a money lender.

It was all for a man claiming to be from the United States who supposedly needed funds to start a medical supply business.

But victims such as the 64-year-old woman do not know that this man is made up of several people who work in shifts and take turns to exchange messages with her, according to a cybersafety advocate, Aaron Mokhtar.

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Aaron Mokhtar.

He said the love scam syndicate would take up to six months to build the trust of their victims using various methods, such as always being available online and even buying a wedding ring.

“The victim feels like they are talking to a legit person and feel cared for because he is always available,” he told FMT.

At some point in the relationship, such as when they are ready to meet in person, some “difficulty” is bound to happen and the man willl need “urgent funds”, he said.

A criminologist, Mohammad Rahim Kamaluddin, said that victims are oblivious to the fact that they have fallen into a complex web of lies.

Mohammad Rahim Kamaluddin.

“The syndicate will create a fake social media profile of a so-called family member to introduce the victims to him or her. This immediately puts a new layer of trust in their relationship,” he said.

The syndicate will first look for a target who meets certain criteria, usually someone “professional, educated, retired, and lonely” to ensure a high probability of success.

Rahim said children with elderly parents should check the parent’s list of social media “friends” to be on the alert for suspicious profiles.

City police chief Azmi Abu Kassim said the public shoud avoid trusting strangers on the internet and avoid becoming part of Love Scam statistics.

“Don’t easily trust a stranger whom you never even met in person. Although technology is part of our lives, we should be more careful when using it,” he told FMT. - FMT

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