Police in Malaysia and Singapore have arrested 34 suspects — 13 of them Nigerians — for allegedly running an online scam, where at least 100 victims lost a total of more than $6.4 million in fake online relationships.
The suspects, who were arrested Monday, have been extorting money from unsuspecting victims by pretending to be their online spouses. They would tell their victims that they were sending them gifts, and in order to receive the gifts, the victims had to transfer some money to “customs and immigration officers.”
“These guys are on the Internet, posing as doctors, professionals, making friends with people around the world,” David Chew, an officer at Singapore Commercial Affairs Department, told Channel News Asia.
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Others have been courting unsuspecting social media users with the aim of building trust so that they can ask them for loans to make investments. Once they get the loans, they become untraceable, according to Chew.
Emotionally Deprived Victims
According to the head of the Malaysian Commercial Crimes Department, Acryl Sqani Abdullah Sani, the scammers mainly target people who appear to be emotionally desperate.
Most of these fraudsters are using believable profiles, including stealing pictures of well-known and trusted people online.
“These people are very good with the way they are tickling the feelings, the emotions, the hearts of their potential victims. So beware,” Sani said.
Addressing the media in a joint press conference in Singapore Monday, security officials from the two Asian countries warned people to be extra careful when getting in to online relationships with strangers, especially during Valentine’s Day.
Rising Online Dating Scams
In this era of social media, online dating has become increasingly popular, with a significant number of people preferring to use the available online platforms to find their significant other.
However, these platforms have also become a major target for cyber criminals who are out to make money from gullible victims. Unfortunately, online dating scams are very common in Africa today.
Last year, the South African Banking Risk Information Center released a statement cautioning people about a worrying prevalence of online dating scams.
The organization said this type of crime has proven difficult to deal with since the culprits have perfected ways of exploiting the emotions of their victims who are usually made to believe that they are in a genuine romantic relationship.
It is still not clear what course of action will be taken against the arrested suspects.