Syndicate cloned police phone number to trick 82 victims
GEORGE TOWN - A Macau Scam syndicate has duped victims of more than RM2.74mil (S$880,000), using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to replicate the telephone number of the Penang police headquarters to con victims.
No fewer than 82 people had fallen prey to the scam since February.
The syndicate used a three-storey bungalow as its training centre before the members were deployed to Japan, Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian countries.
On Saturday, the syndicate was crippled by police following the arrest of 50 people, including three women.
Penang Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) chief Asst Comm Abdul Ghani Ahmad said the suspects, aged between 17 and 42, were arrested at the bungalow in Taman Damai Utama in Puchong, Selangor, at about 8am.
"Intelligence gathering was carried out for about a month after we received a police report from a woman in Balik Pulau, who transferred RM5,000 to an account given by the scammers," he told a press conference at the state police headquarters in Penang Road yesterday.
"She was told that her bank account would be frozen by Bank Negara Malaysia.
"The scammers promised to return the money to her a week later after the 'investigations' were over, but she did not get her money back."
ACP Abdul Ghani said police investigations revealed that one of the suspects would pose as a bank officer and tell the victim that he or she had a loan with a particular bank.
If the victim denied it, the scammer would give them the contact number of a "Bank Negara officer" - another scammer - to check out the claim.
Those who are still not convinced would then receive a call from 04-222 1522, which appeared to be the general line of the state police headquarters but had been replicated or cloned using VoIP technology to appear as such.
ACP Abdul Ghani added that another scammer, posing as a CCID officer, would then tell the victim that his or her bank account had been misused for criminal activities and was frozen pending investigation.
"The scammer will then ask the victim to transfer money to a specific account, and that would be the last they see of their money," he said.
ACP Abdul Ghani added that 82 reports were lodged nationwide on this scam so far this year.
He said police also seized five mobile phones, a laptop, photocopied MyKad, photocopied passports, a set of scripts on what to say when posing as a police officer and bank officer, and 31 Malaysian passports.
"We are also checking if the mastermind was among the suspects arrested," he said.
ACP Abdul Ghani added that the suspects were remanded for three days until today and would be brought to the Balik Pulau court for remand extension pending investigations under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating.
Nobody knows exactly how the term "Macau Scam" came to be used.
However, former Interpol president Tan Sri Khoo Boon Hui has been quoted as saying that the scam apparently originated from Macau and was operated from other countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Another version circulating was that the first victims were in Macau, but the Macau police have declined to comment.