Using religion to scam

KUALA LUMPUR: Using words like “Islamic” and “syariah-compliant”, several local investment scam syndicates have been playing the religion card to dupe victims.

Some of these schemes promised heaven and earth to investors, offering returns as high as 50 times their investment value. Some even promised to pay out returns as fast as three hours after an investment was made.

These brazen syndicates also used pictures of politicians, religious figures and celebrities in their advertisements to sway investors.

Bukit Aman’s Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) says nearly RM12mil was lost to these syndicates last year.

ALSO READ : Public urged to be vigilant against fake syariah schemes

They also warned that they would not tolerate irresponsible parties using religious sentiments to cheat victims through such unscrupulous tactics and would use any means necessary by the laws to bring them down.

CCID director Comm Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf said last year they opened 284 investigation papers involving syndicates which employed tactics offering Islamic and syariah-compliant schemes.

“The losses recorded from these 284 reports amounted to RM11.66mil.

“These syndicates blatantly offered their schemes via social media and based on our checks some of these advertisements offered returns as high as 50 times the investment value while some others offered to payout returns within three hours after an investment was made,” he told The Star recently.

He said they conducted 50 raids last year and arrested 119 people believed to be involved in these syndicates.

“What was more worrying is that these syndicates placed advertisements with ‘endorsements’ by politicians, religious figures, celebrities, corporate bigwigs and social media influencers.

“Our investigations revealed these figures depicted had zero involvement in these schemes and never gave any authorisation to these syndicates to use their image.

“We have received police reports from several of these individuals who claimed their pictures were misused to promote these scams,” he said.

Comm Ramli said that based on their checks so far, only local players were employing such tactics by using religion to dupe victims.

“Their target market is mainly Muslim victims,” he said.

Meanwhile, on umrah or pilgrimage scams, Comm Ramli said last year, they opened 95 investigation papers and arrested 20 individuals.

“These scams managed to cause losses of over RM4.99mil.

“Our checks revealed that these syndicates also showed a preference for using social media to attract victims and also similarly misused images of religious figures in their promotional material,” said Comm Ramli.

He said the recent announcement by the Saudi Arabia government that some Islamic countries including Malaysia will use tourist visas for pilgrimage has opened some challenges in investigating such cases.

“These fraud syndicates have seen the matter as an opportunity for them to commit fraud through ‘Do-it-Yourself Umrah’.

“In overcoming this kind of fraud, CCID reminds the community, especially those who want to perform umrah, to not be deceived by offers that were too cheap.

“Check the records of companies, agents, websites that organise these umrah packages before making any decisions,” he said.

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