SHAH ALAM: A local Macau scam syndicate was busted when 16 people including the mastermind were nabbed by police in Serdang.
Police raided two apartments in Taman Serdang Perdana, Serdang and Taman Sri Sentosa, Kuala Lumpur, on April 29, following a public tip-off.
Selangor Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Asst Comm Fazlisyam Abd Majid said five men and two women were detained in the first raid at Serdang.
"Following that, we raided the second apartment and arrested another seven men and two women.
"They were aged between 16 and 31. The 31-year-old mastermind is actually awaiting trial for another Macau scam case from 2018," he told a press conference at Selangor police headquarters on Wednesday (May 8).
Various mobile phones, routers and laptops were also seized in the raid.
The syndicate is known to stay on the move in order to avoid detection.
"In fact, they had just moved into the two locations about a day before we raided," he said.
ACP Fazlisyam said the syndicate recruits members for "customer service" jobs with a monthly salary of RM2,500 to RM3,000 per month.
"No qualifications were required, and lodging and food were provided.
"Once recruited, the new employees were trained with scripts on how to speak to their prospective victims," he said.
He added that the syndicate is connected to 38 cases of Macau scams nationwide with 11 of those in Selangor.
"The losses incurred from the 11 cases alone is almost RM1mil," he said.
ACP Fazlisyam said that Macau scams are a major issue in the country with 129 cases recorded in Selangor during the first four months of this year alone.
"That's a loss worth around RM7.5mil. Most of the victims are above the age of 50.
"Many of them panic when they get these calls that claim they are in trouble with the law or in sudden debt, so they pay quickly without verifying the claims," he said.
ACP Fazlisyam urged the public to be more cautious and not to believe such calls as banks and enforcement agencies do not ask for payment via the phone.
The term "Macau Scam" was coined because it is believed that it originated from Macau or that the first victims came from there. This has never been confirmed.
The scam often starts with a phone call from someone pretending to be an officer from a bank, government agency or debt collector.
The scammer will then claim that the potential victim owes money or has an unpaid fine, often with a very short window of less than an hour, to settle the payment or face "dire consequences".
These unsuspecting victims will then be asked to make payments to get them off the hook.