KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 556 cases of face mask scams resulting in losses amounting to RM4.2mil have been recorded this year with the majority of it occurring during the movement control order (MCO).
Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Zakaria Ahmad said from the total cases, 501 occurred between March 18 (the start of the MCO) and April 3, resulting in RM3.5mil in losses.
"So far, we have arrested 39 people – 29 men and 10 women, and 22 of them have since been charged.
"The spike in cases occurred as scammers wanted to take advantage of shortage in stocks of face masks," he told a press conference on Saturday (April 4).
The modus operandi of the scammers was to advertise the sale of face masks via social media, including Facebook and Instagram, he added.
"Victims would then contact the scammers via WhatsApp and be given an account number to transfer the money into for their purchases.
"However, after payment is made, the suspects cannot be reached and the social media account will be deactivated.
"The victims will be left with nothing," Comm Mohd Zakaria said.
There are also victims who were duped after they tried to buy the items through other mediums as well as through their friends, he added.
"Pictures of face masks on the social media sites run by the scammers are actually lifted from the pages of other companies.
"Some syndicates even gave fake tracking numbers to fool the victims into believing the package was being sent," he said.
Comm Mohd Zakaria advised the public to check the validity of sellers and their account numbers through the CCID's SemakMule portal.
"Only buy from legitimate sources.
"We don't want such cases to recur thus the public must be vigilant," he added.
Police believed some of the victims intended to purchase the face masks as a means to sell to others, he added.
"During the MCO, there are those who want to make a profit as well.
"They want to buy in large quantity so that they can sell at a higher price, given demand is high right now," he said.
The 556 cases occurred on various platforms, including 401 cases on Facebook, 65 cases via WhatsApp, 27 via Mudah.my, 16 cases each on WeChat and Instagram, as well as 10 on Shopee, he added.
Comm Mohd Zakaria also rubbished a viral news that claimed supplies of face masks from China to Sabah had been blocked from distribution by the police.
"This is absolutely not true.
"Don't spread unverified news as it will cause alarm to the public and unrest," he added.
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