KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — A total of 501 fraud cases involving the sale of face masks were reported nationwide during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period until yesterday, with losses amounting to RM3.5 million.

Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said 37 people aged between 21 and 45 had been arrested for alleged involvement in face mask scams with 22 of them had been charged in court.

“The modus operandi of the suspects was to advertise the sale of face masks via social media such as Facebook and Instagram before contacting the victims via WhatsApp.

“The suspects would then send an account number for the victims to make payments. However, once payment had been made, the suspects could not be contacted and their social media accounts were deactivated,” he told a press conference here today.

Mohd Zakaria said a total of 556 cases of face mask scams were recorded from January until yesterday.

He said of that total, 401 cases were on Facebook, WhatsApp (65 cases), Mudah.my (27 cases), WeChat and Instagram (16 cases each), Shopee (10 cases), phone call (eight cases), Carousell and Google (five cases each) and three cases involving face-to-face interaction.

Mohd Zakaria said Kuala Lumpur recorded the highest number of cases when 64 investigation papers were opened involving losses amounting to RM1.4 million, followed by Selangor 119 cases (RM940,116) and Penang 55 cases (RM438,098).

All the cases were being investigated under Section 420 of the Penal Code and members of the public were advised to refer to the ‘Semakmule’ portal and the online status of sellers via https://www.ssm.com.my/Pages/Product/SSM-BizTrust.aspx before purchasing to avoid being victims of fraud, he added.

Meanwhile, Mohd Zakaria said police had not received any report of fraud cases with regard to the payment of the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional cash assistance and the withdrawal of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). — Bernama