Malaysia – Valentine’s Day has passed us by, but love is still in the air – and romance frauds abound.
According to the police, at least 367 persons aged 20 to 40 were swept up in a love scam in Johor.
They were blackmailed after “sexting” with internet lovers they had never met in person.
The figures above are from January 2022 forward, showing that the number of lovers duped online and blackmailed for a bit of skin they shared with strangers will likely increase.
The police say the “sexting” extortion scheme – and it is a massive one – involves losses of between RM500,000 to RM1 million.
These figures are conservative according to some sources because a large number of people are not willing to report the cases to the police.
Johor police chief Kamarul Zaman Mamat reportedly said, “Those who stepped forward couldn’t take it after the perpetrators repeatedly extorted them despite complying with the initial demand for money.”
According to the report that appeared in Free Malaysia Today, the police urges the victims not to feel ashamed about coming forward to lodge a report because investigations are confidential.
How it’s done
The victims are allegedly persuaded into sexting after getting to know the offenders online, according to the police. After a brief conversation, they proceed to a video call, during which the female stranger (in most cases) becomes hot and asks the victim if he wants to witness her undress in stages.
But this will only happen if he follows suit, unaware that someone is filming him undressing outside the blackmailer’s camera frame.
It also appears that those using Wechat and Michat to enjoy “sexting” are more likely to fall victims to blackmail. After they record the person naked, they come back with threatening messages saying they will spread the video online.
This forces the victims to make the ‘pocket money’ payments but it never ends and many finds themselves in difficulty after losing a lot of their savings.
Empty bank accounts
In general, Kaspersky says, almost 1 in 2 in Southeast Asia is bound to lose money because of love scams online. The risk is that your bank account gets emptied, so beware Valentines!
Love is in the air and cybercriminals can smell it, too.
Romance scams are on the rise since 2020 when the pandemic first hit the world.
With limited physical movements, the internet, particularly social media platforms, have provided a critical connection for people.
Kaspersky says its research finds that more than half (53%) of social media users around the world have used social networks more during local and national lockdowns than before.
The same research also revealed 18% of the 1,007 adults surveyed to represent Southeast Asia (SEA) use social media mainly to find romance and the majority (76%) confirms that social media has provided them with a vital connection during a global health emergency.
In addition, close to a quarter (24%) of the respondents from SEA said that they have formed real-life, in-person friendships with people met initially on social media while another 18% admitted that they dated someone they’ve met on these platforms.
In 2021, law enforcement agencies from Singapore and Malaysia worked together to track down a group specialising in romance scams.
The syndicate was allegedly behind at least eight scams in both countries, including the case of a 41-year-old Singaporean woman who ended up losing a total of $28,000.
Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.