Authorities in Malaysia and Singapore have arrested 34 people this week on suspicion of running a huge online scam that stole $6.4m from over 100 victims.
The scammers allegedly met their victims online, building trust through the pretence of a relationship and offering to send them gifts.
The victims then received a request for funds to be sent to customs or immigration to ensure they received the gifts, reports suggest.
However, the accounts for customs and immigration were in fact fake, the scammers using them to receive the funds before disappearing with the money.
In other cases, the scammer would tell victims they were coming to visit and required travel funds, others claiming they needed loans to make investments.
Of the 34 people arrested, 13 were said to be Nigerian, and reports suggest that the majority of victims were female.
David Chew from the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department said: “These guys are on the Internet, posing as doctors, professionals, making friends with people around the world.
“The third one is once I become good friends with you, I can ask you to make investments, to give me loans.
“Of course, they never intend to return the money and when it’s time for them to pay back the money, they’re suddenly un-contactable.
“The modalities in which I can cheat a person who I trust is multifaceted.”
This set of arrests comes just months after authorities in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Nigeria arrested a group of 13 people suspected of scamming singles online.
In this instance, the con artists were said to have targeted women in Hong Kong, Europe, America and Australia, the majority of the money being laundered in Malaysia and Nigeria, Hong Kong authorities discovering 10 different bank accounts.
Back in 2014, US officials revealed that Malaysia was becoming a hub for people perpetrating cybercrime such as online dating scams.
A report by Reuters said that Nigerian men were travelling to Malaysia on student visas to take advantage of the country’s sophisticated banking system, which makes it easy to set up accounts to receive international bank transfers.
This apparently stemmed from the government’s efforts to make the country an education hub by attracting international students – a policy that scammers were said to be exploiting.
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