Seniors a prime target for scams

Comm Ramli: While senior citizens only account for 6.4% of the total 86,266 victims since 2021, their losses are massive compared to other age groups.

M’sians aged 60 and above have lost ‘half a billion’ ringgit to scams since 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of scam victims among senior citizens has been on the rise in recent years.

Malaysians aged above 60 are prime targets for scammers given most of them are retirees with decades worth of savings and wealth.

Lately, reports of senior citizens being duped of hundreds of thousands to even millions of ringgit have become concerningly more prevalent.

“For the past three years, the number of senior citizen scam victims has steadily increased.

“It is a cause of concern and must be prevented,” Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) director Comm Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf said in an interview recently.

The department recorded a total of 86,266 victims of scams since 2021, he said.

“While senior citizens only account for 6.4% of the total victims, their losses are massive compared to other age groups.

“From 2021 till last year, a total of RM2.7bil was lost to scams. The losses suffered by senior citizens was half a billion ringgit or 20% of the total losses,” he said.

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As of May this year, a total of 990 senior citizens have already been duped by scams, Comm Ramli said.

“Their losses have reached about RM130.4mil, which is 27.7% of the total RM471.5mil in overall losses to scams this year,” he said.

Between 2021 and 2023, 47.6% of 5,533 senior citizen scam victims fell prey to telecommunications scams, he said.

“Phone scams and SMS scams are some examples of telecommunication scams.

“The trend is similar this year, as 39.4% of senior citizens have fallen prey to those scams,” he said.

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Scammers’ latest modus operandi are in the form of job scams targeting senior citizens, Comm Ramli revealed.

“The scam syndicates advertise on social media with the tagline ‘Job For Seniors’ or ‘Job For Old-Timers’.

“The job offers are usually for hotel bookings, where victims have to first use their own money for bookings with the promise of receiving between 0.6% and 10% in commission depending on the assignments completed.

“The victims will be asked to open an account on a website before starting work,” he said.

At first, the victims would see their commission rising but be unable to withdraw the money, he said.

“So far, we received 21 police reports nationwide with losses reaching RM752,100,” he said, adding that several of the victims were senior citizens.

Comm Ramli said lack of knowledge on Internet-related matters might be one of the reasons senior citizens are mostly duped by telecommunication scams.

“By only using a phone, scammers can cause panic in the victims and dupe them,” he added.

Comm Ramli advised the public, especially senior citizens to not entertain calls from unknown individuals, especially those who claim to be from government entities.

“Agencies such as the police do not conduct investigations over the phone. If you receive such calls, quickly end the call and do not prolong the conversation,” he said.

He also reminded senior citizens not to be enticed by dubious job offers on social media.

“If it is too good to be true, then it is a scam. We also hope family members (of senior citizens) can play their part and prevent such scams by looking out for them,” he said.

He also advised smartphone users to be on high alert when they receive Android Package Kit (APK) files from unknown or even known sources.

While APKs can be used for legitimate purposes such as installing apps for entertainment, banking and other services, crooked parties are embedding malware and spyware in these files before randomly sending them out to unsuspecting smartphone users.

Retiree Liz Fernandez, 67, had hoped to pass her golden years in tranquillity at her home here but ended up with heartache and anxiety when she lost part of her savings to scammers after her smartphone was “hijacked”.

It all started when she sought pet-grooming services for her dog on Facebook more than a year ago.

She was sent a link to register for the services through a bank transfer of a mere RM10.

Fernandez said she did as instructed and believes a malware embedded APK file was installed in her phone after she clicked on the link and accessed her banking application.

Soon after, Fernandez – who suffers from health disabilities – said she noticed activity on her device even when she was not using it and soon after, her savings of RM26,000 in her bank account was wiped out by scammers.

She alerted her bank but was exasperated by the response of an officer who took her call.

“I quickly called the bank but the person who spoke to me instructed me to call the bank’s ‘fraud’ department.

“I told them that time was running out and they had to act fast as the transactions were ongoing.

“By the time I called the other numbers, all the funds in my savings accounts were gone and the scammers were attempting to transfer out about RM100,000 which I had in my online fixed deposit account.

“Later, the bank managed to freeze my account after I urged them to do so.

“The banks are slacking and are not doing enough to avoid this from happening.

“As a senior citizen, how am I to know about what an APK file is. It was only after my case did the bank alert and warn its clients about malicious APK files circulating under the guise of legitimate utility platforms.

“I was blamed for what happened and the bank was cold towards me.

“They conveniently washed their hands (of the issue). I wrote to Bank Negara but was referred back to the bank,” she said.

Fernandez said a lawyer is handling her case and she hopes to see the bank share responsibility for what had happened to her.

She advised the public to be wary of business advertisements on Facebook as scammers were behind many of them.

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