WHEN technician Thomas Deva received an e-mail from an online chat friend in the United Kingdom informing him of a US$4.5mil inheritance, he chuckled.
Even though he thought the information read like a variation of the Nigerian e-mail scams prevalent in cyberspace, he was overtaken by greed.
For the next few weeks he laboured to raise money to pay for documentation and various “fees” to get the “inheritance” money which according to the friend was stuck at the Customs Department.
Throughout this time, Deva did not reveal his correspondence or his telephone conversations to his family or friends.
After paying some RM30,000 into a local bank account, Deva lost all contact with the “friend” who disconnected his phone number.
He summoned up enough courage to visit the Customs depot at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with all the notary certified documents and receipts sent to him by his “friend.”
On being told that the certificates and documents were all fakes and realising that he had been duped, he turned to the Public Complaints Bureau under the Prime Minister’s Department.
“There is nothing much we can do to help such victims because the scammers are moving all the time and we do not have any leads to track down the foreigners who have been perpetrating such scams,” said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk T. Murugiah.
Murugiah, who held a press conference at the MIC headquarters in Jalan Ipoh on Tuesday to highlight several similar cases, urged the public to be wary of such tempting offers.
“Who in their right mind would give away such huge sums of money to people who are practically strangers?” he said, adding that most Internet scams were perpetrated with the aid of locals.
He advised the public not to be gullible and contact his department if they received such offers over the Internet.
In Deva’s case, the scammer was known to the victim and even visited the latter in Malaysia. The scam was carried out over several months.
After the man returned to UK, he continued to keep in touch with Deva. After several months, the “friend” informed that his mother had died and left a few million dollars for him and Deva as she had grown fond of him after several telephone calls and exchanging e-mails.
Murugiah said the modus operandi of all six cases that came before him were the same.
He said the victims would be told to get the necessary documents to secure their package from the Customs and when they could not, the “friend” would inform them that someone from Customs would contact them to offer help in exchange for a payment of between RM30,000 and RM40,000 to be deposited into a local account.
He explained that as soon as the money was deposited, the culprits would disappear without a trace.
According to Murugiah’s office, the Customs Department receives reports of 60 to 100 cases monthly where victims call up with the fake documents asking for their “inheritance money.”