KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — One of the biggest challenges faced by the Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) is people’s gullibility.

The department’s acting director Commissioner Datuk Saiful Azly Kamaruddin said despite all the warnings and stories in the media about people being cheated, people are still falling for various scams like “love scams”, “Macau scams” and “Pos Laju scams.”

With Malaysia reopening again after so many months of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saiful Azly warned that scammers have kept up with the times and become more creative as they too need to earn a “living”.

In an exclusive interview with Malay Mail on Tuesday, he said that the department saw a spike in cases in the first six months of the year compared to last year, from 12,462 to 14,050.

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However, he pointed out that there was a drastic drop in quantum of losses — from RM2.9 billion last year to RM914 million this year.

He said the amount was particularly high last year due to several high-profile, isolated cases the department was tasked with investigating.

“Times are changing. Those days, scam cases involved face-to-face interaction but now, it's mostly online. So it is difficult to stay ahead during these challenging times. Scammers are constantly finding ways to stay creative to pull off massive cybercrimes.”

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What encompasses a commercial crime?

Many Malaysians are not aware that the CCID is a special department that deals specifically with different components of commercial crimes.

In fact, they even operate from their own building — Menara 238 along Jalan Tun Razak — away from the federal police headquarters (Bukit Aman).

Saiful Azly said the department focuses on cases such as cheating, criminal breach of trust (CBT), cybercrimes, falsification of documents, fake currencies, misappropriation of funds, fake DVDs and other minor components such as being conned directly, being cheated by a bomoh and lottery scams.

The department even launched its own “rogue gallery” called Semak Mule last year that can be accessed by the public to check bank accounts or phone numbers which have been linked to criminal activities.

“This platform is specifically for commercial crimes; however, it has been underused. Many are still not aware. So please use it for your own benefit,” he said.

Who are the victims? Don’t let it be you

Saiful Azly said the police have repeatedly reminded members of the public that the authorities are not allowed to ask for personal particulars over the phone as it is against the law.

He added that people should remain calm when they receive scam calls such as those that impersonate the police.

"All they need to do is ask for the caller's details before proceeding to check with the nearest police station or go to CCID’s Semak Mule website.

“Remain calm. No need to panic. We will never ever ask you for details over the phone. We will only summon you to the nearest police station for questioning should any matter arise,” he said.

When asked why people are still falling victim to such scams, he said most of the time they panic and react too fast before contacting the cops.

“Sometimes, they come late, after a week, to us. By this time, It's hard to trace and find ‘the ghost.’ On the other hand, if you come immediately, there’s a chance we can track the culprits down.

“However, my simple advice to the public is: if you have not committed any crime, no need to panic.

"When it comes to investment scams, 'Macau' scam, 'Pos Laju' scam, 'love' scam and lately face mask scam... you need to be wary of the ‘ghost’ behind your screens. Remember to check before you make any transactions," he said.

Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) acting director Commissioner Datuk Saiful Azly Kamaruddin is seen in his office during an interview with Malay Mail. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) acting director Commissioner Datuk Saiful Azly Kamaruddin is seen in his office during an interview with Malay Mail. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Saiful Azly said in the first six months of this year, there were a whopping 2,174 scam calls impersonating the police, which led to a total loss of RM103,000,000 and 17 cases of 'Pos Laju' scam with losses close to RM83,000.

He said what shocks the department most is that the victims in these cases professionals with jobs such as doctors, lecturers and bankers.

“All these scam syndicates, especially 'Macau' and 'love' scams, the ghosts behind the computer screens are all well trained and schooled to manipulate and coax victims.

“My advice to all these women, meet face to face, and then part with your money. Don’t deal with the ‘ghost’ behind the screen. These syndicates know how to brainwash you once they know that you're an easy target sounding lonely. They are very well trained to identify your characteristics,” he said.  

Meanwhile, Saiful Azly said “Pos Laju scams” will always be there if people are not going to stay vigilant.

“It’s the same old modus operandi… telling you that you have parcels stuck here and there and that you need to pay a fee for the parcel to be transferred to you. Please stop falling for this,” he said.  

Saiful Azly also said throughout the movement control order (MCO) period from March18 to June 30 there were 781 cases of face mask scams resulting in RM8.1 million in losses. The CCID made 204 arrests and 76 were successfully charged in court.

“People get easily enticed by cheap and fast orders from China. But most of them are illegitimate suppliers and some get stuck in Customs and don't make their way here.

“My advice is to follow the valid agent listing by the government. Don't beat the system and get duped by people claiming to have fast production.”

There were also 467 online investment scams amounting to RM52.4 million in losses this year.

A total of 13 online investments have been identified as scams by the police.

These include IQ Option, Olymp Trade, i-Rakyat Trade, Global Investment, Wei Jian Zhi, AA Anthony, Global Trader, People Global Network, Rakuten Trade, Wine Exchange China, GWFX Global, Private Investment Trade Dubai and London Stock Exchange.

“Don't just believe their testimonials, again check first with official channels,” he said.

Don’t be too 'generous' in sharing your personal data

The CCID advised Malaysians not to simply share their personal details and beware third party apps they download on their phones or websites.

“They go to the supermarket and simply give full details such as IC numbers etc for call and win contests, freely download every app they come across from a website and agree with terms and conditions cluelessly.

“So it's easy to get their data. However, we also understand it is the doing of ex-bankers and insurance companies also.

“Hence we are also working closely with them to stop these people selling data,” he said while also advising Malaysians to only download apps from places like the Google Play Store or App Store on their phones as they are certified.