JOHOR BARU, March 9 — A 15-year-old male teenager was among 18 people arrested for suspected involvement in a scam syndicate that specialised in impersonating family members or friends after the police raided two houses in Kempas and Setia Indah here two days ago.
It was learnt that the teenager is a school dropout and had just started working for the syndicate for less than a month before the authorities raided their premises.
Johor police chief Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said acting on information, the suspects were arrested in the two raids conducted between 4.15pm and 10pm last Sunday.
He said the local suspects, including the teenager together with three women, are aged between 15 and 35.
“During the raids, police also seized 60 mobile phones, 17 ATM bank cards, 13 notebooks containing pre-written scripts and also a list of potential victims’ contact numbers,” said Ayob Khan during a media conference held at the Johor police contingent headquarters here today.
Also present was Johor Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Salleh Abdullah.
Ayob Khan said initial investigations revealed that the scam was operated by the suspects claiming to be either family members or friends of their victims.
“They will usually be contacted either through WhatsApp or voice call, asking to borrow money.
“The scam was exposed only after the victims later checked with their real relatives or friends only to find out that they had been duped,” he said.
Ayob Khan said the suspects are believed to have been recruited by the syndicate through Facebook advertisements.
“The suspects were promised a monthly salary of RM2,500 with an additional five per cent commission for each successful scam.
“The syndicate started operations for less than a month and the suspects have all yet to receive their full salary.
“Investigators are also in the midst of compiling the total number of victims involved as well as the amount of money lost to the scammers,” said Ayob Khan, adding that investigators were also tracking down the syndicate’s mastermind.
Ayob Khan, who has been taking a tough stand on scammers in the state, said the suspects have been remanded to assist with investigations under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating.
Meanwhile, he said that throughout last year, Johor police had recorded a total of 209 cheating cases with losses amounting to RM1.7 million.
“For this year, up to February, a total of 48 cases have been reported with losses amounting to about RM398,000.
“The public should always be vigilant and not trust every call or message that they receive, more so when financial transactions are involved,” advised Ayob Khan.