Sokong Team
Mon Jun 10 2024

Cybercrime in Malaysia: An Epidemic?

Human Rights
This article features :

The headline in The Star on Thursday, June 6, 2023 screamed: “Retiree savings of almost RM5mil wiped out by scammers

The article details a heartbreaking incident in Shah Alam where a retiree lost nearly five million ringgit to an investment scam. The victim, a 63-year-old woman, was lured by a fraudulent advertisement on Facebook, leading her to invest her life savings.

This substantial loss highlights the vulnerability of retirees and the pervasive threat of online scams. Authorities, represented by Shah Alam OCPD Asst Comm Mohd Iqbal Ibrahim, issued a statement underscoring the importance of vigilance and scepticism towards online investment opportunities.


This kind of headline is occurring with alarming frequency.

From January to October 2023 alone, police investigated an average of 15 non-existent investment cases daily, with losses nearing RM365 million.

In response to this escalating threat, Engage, an NGO focused on human rights and media freedom, recently collaborated with Malaysiakini's Kini News Lab to host a Scam Awareness workshop in Johor Bahru.

The workshop was aimed at educating the public on identifying and avoiding online scams.

“I, too, get calls daily,” said Engage’s Co-founder and Chairperson Thomas Fann. “At first, I entertained them because we are polite people, but after a few of these, the politeness goes out the window,” he added.

Kini News Lab, renowned for its data and visual journalism, uses innovative storytelling techniques to highlight various issues.

At the workshop, Nor Natasya of Kini News Lab showcased common types of scams, such as job, investment, love, call, and mule scams.


For instance, job scams often start with a WhatsApp message promising work-from-home jobs for a small deposit, leading victims into a cycle of paying more money for more non-existent jobs.

Call scammers claim to be from government departments, stating that you have a summons or debt that needs to be cleared to avoid court action. These scammers sound authoritative and convincing, driving fear into their targets and agreeing to transfer funds to terminate legal action.

Ms. Natasya engaged participants with quizzes and games to test their susceptibility to cyber scams. These activities are available at Kini News Lab under the heading “Can You Escape Online Scams?”

The workshop, attended by around 50 people, many of them elderly, highlighted the vulnerabilities of this demographic.

Superintendent Azlan bin Ahmad of the Commercial Crimes Investigation Unit in Larkin, Johor Bahru, emphasised that scammers exploit the loneliness of older people through 'love scams' and target retirees with fraudulent investment opportunities.

Inspector Wan Jinn Seong added that scammers often present attractive but fake returns from supposed 'investors' who are part of the scam.


“Every day without fail, I receive reports from people who have been scammed,” Inspector Wan lamented, sharing his WhatsApp number with participants for direct assistance.

Superintendent Azlan advised the elderly to avoid online banking, recommending using ATMs and demanding physical savings or investment books from financial institutions. However, a participant noted that many deposit-taking institutions no longer issue these books to depositors.


However, there have been cases when the elderly ‘allow’ themselves to be scammed. Inspector Wan narrated a case where a widowed elderly woman willingly parted with her money to a love scammer because she was lonely. Despite having children, they had little time for her.

This situation is concerning. With social media rampant even among the elderly, opportunities for scammers are abundant. Often caught off-guard, the elderly leak personal information that scammers can exploit.

The alarming rise in cybercrime in Malaysia calls for heightened awareness and precautionary measures, especially among the elderly, who are most at risk. As scams continue to evolve, staying informed and sceptical of unsolicited offers is crucial in protecting oneself from financial ruin.

Ms Amy Suhana of Phillips Capital, a global group involved in mutual funds, wealth planning, and capital management, advised: “Investors should be vigilant for several red flags to protect themselves from falling victim to scams. Promises of high returns with little or no risk, pressure tactics urging quick investments, and a lack of proper documentation are common warning signs.

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“Scammers often create complex structures to confuse and rush victims into making hasty decisions. It's essential to verify the legitimacy of investment offers by checking the licences of fund managers and agents through official channels like the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC), which has an Investment Checker, found here: ( to verify the company's status, and the Federation of Investment Managers Malaysia (FIMM).

Conducting thorough due diligence and ensuring that agents and companies comply with regulatory standards can help safeguard against potential fraud,” she added.

“Technology makes it faster and simpler but simultaneously brings a lot of risks to us,” Superintendent Azlan said.

His underlying message was clear: “Be vigilant and don't trust anyone, yes, even your grandchildren.”

Try this interactive game created by Kini News Lab to learn what some scams may look like and how you can better protect yourself from the scammers. Those who fall victim to scams should contact the National Scam Response Centre at 997 or their bank's 24/7 customer service hotlines.

by malaysiakini

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