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Tuesday June 2, 2009
KUALA LUMPUR: The Black Money scam, also known as the Nigerian 419 scam, was reported by Interpol to have surfaced in Malaysia in 1998.
(419 refers to a section of a Nigerian law that deals with fraud.)
Most of these con artists enter the country on a social visit pass which allows them to stay up to 30 days.
They tend to enrol in local colleges, some even reputable ones, just to obtain student visas so that they could extend their stay here.
These so-called students are believed to pay off college staff to mark their attendance.
They would then send out random emails and SMS, promising huge piles of money. Usually a “processing fee” is required in advance from their targets.
In some of the cases, the victim lost big amounts of money without realising it until the fraudster goes missing.
They are such smooth operators that a number of victims took loans from Ah Longs to pay them.
In the Black Money scam, victims are told about a stash of bank notes which had been dyed black to avoid Customs detection. The money was supposedly kept in a safe somewhere and the victim should purchase a type of chemical to wash off the dye which would then unveil “genuine” US dollars.
The victim would be promised a share of the money.
The supposed origin of the riches varied with each new victim. The most popular version is that the money is the lost fortunes of former Nigerian dictator General Abacha which need to be transported out of Nigeria without the Customs knowing it.
Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Koh Hong Sun said the con men, upon meeting their target, would produce a small vial of washing liquid called “Universal Automatic Washer” and ask the victim to select any black bank note at random.
The black banknote would be washed but with a sleight of hand,the con man would substitute it with a real note.
Victims are given the “washed” bank notes and are encouraged to verify their authenticity at a money changer.
“They would ask the victim to buy the chemical in order to process more money and that the costs of the chemicals are very high,” he said.
These con artists modus operandi of “layering,” where a different person is sent to each meeting with the victim.
According to sources, places like Puchong Prima, a hotel in Ampang and several areas in Kepong are regular meeting spots for such transactions.
Using laptops along with a special software, the con men are also able to forge government documents.
Comm Koh, who confirmed this, said that raids on the “students’ residence” found no textbooks but merely computers and laptops.
In a raid conducted by the police recently, police arrested 29 Nigerians at their office at Metro Prima in Kepong.
All those arrested claimed that they were undergraduates in the Klang Valley, showing their student cards instead of passports. A check by The Star showed that some colleges here had about 70% African students.
These places provide hassle-free enrolment for foreign students who pay application fees ranging from US$170 to US$330.
Investigations also revealed that these so- called students did not have a clear financial source, yet they had no problems paying tuition fees and sending money home to their countries.
In fact, some of them live in posh condominiums and drive luxury cars like the BMW X5.
They are also known to use local women to carry out their deception, targeting single mothers or college students and using their bank accounts to conduct their shady business.
Some of them, when caught by police, would falsely claim to be Muslims and recite verses from the Quran to gain sympathy, said sources.
Most of these con artists are deported to their home countries as authorities usually lack evidence to charge them.
However, a number of them would return to Malaysia under different passports.
Comm Koh said the authorities were using biometric systems as a measure against such the conmen to prevent them from returning.
“But as long as there are Malaysians who are fuelled by greed, there will be someone to take advantage of them,” he said.
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