Real estate scam !

Real Estate FraudMastermind members and ‘buyer’ caught in the act of dealing with would-be victim

SHAH ALAM: Two members of a real estate scam syndicate were nabbed by police while in the midst of “negotiating” a deal with a potential victim.

Police arrested the two men at a coffee shop in Jalan SS3/59, Taman Bahagia, Petaling Jaya, around 1.30pm last Friday.

Selangor Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Asst Comm Chong Mun Phing said the men, part of a real estate syndicate, were meeting with someone on a “business deal” during the operation.

“We arrested the two men, both aged 58. One of them was the mastermind of the syndicate,” she said at the state police headquarters yesterday.

She said the group’s modus operandi was that the mastermind, posing as a senior agent from a reputable real estate firm, would approach his target looking to sell or lease a business property.

“He would then get an accomplice to pose as a buyer, who would pay for the property with a post-dated cheque.

“The mastermind would also receive a post-dated cheque for his commission,” she said.

However, the mastermind would falsify the date and cash out the commission cheque before the original cheque bounces.

The police seized ATM cards, photocopies of ICs and business cards belonging to the mastermind under multiple aliases.

ACP Chong said the syndicate has been linked to at least 18 cheating cases in Selangor involving RM80,200 from their victims, with more similar cases in Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan.

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

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Call centre for scams busted

KAJANG: They lived in luxury bungalows in a gated community without anyone suspecting that they were engaged in illegal activities involving billions of ringgit.

Kajang Country Heights, where they operated, seemed the perfect guise for the syndicate since the area is home to several ministers and former Cabinet members.

Bad landing: The woman who broke her leg being wheeled out of the bungalow by medical personnel in Kajang Country Heights yesterday.

As it turned out, the cover wasn’t good enough as police busted the outsource call centre yesterday for illegal betting, gambling and Internet scams believed to have been operating since last month.

Police arrested 144 people, including 54 women who were staying in four of the bungalows. They were from Taiwan and China.

The syndicate is believed to have rented six bungalows for betweeen RM15,000 and RM20,000 each.

Police, who had been staking the area for two weeks, found two of the bungalows unoccupied.

Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah said that their passports showed that those detained, all in their 20s, had entered the country on March 6.

He said police raided the houses simultaneously at about 1pm and found the suspects engrossed in their laptops and telephones in a “classroom-like atmosphere” with all the tables neatly arranged in rows. CCTV cameras were installed outside the houses.

“They even had written scripts for their members to use when speaking to the victims,” DCP Tun Hisan said.

He said that a woman broke her leg while a man fractured a hand when trying to escape through a window.

Seven others, including a woman, who had sneaked out of the bungalows were arrested hours later.

Also arrested was a local man who delivered food and other essentials to the syndicate members.

The syndicate operated as football bookies. They invited punters to place bets on matches in the ongoing European championships and told them to deposit cash into an account, DCP Tun Hisan said.

He said their Internet scams included posing as authorities and demanding payment for summonses. They would then ask for the credit card details of the victims.

Police seized RM35,800 during the raid but they estimated that the syndicate had raked in almost RM4bil.

DCP Tun Hisan said police were looking for the mastermind.

By RASHITHA A. HAMID The Star/Asia News Network

Don’t be a total sucker!

There is no easy way to make a fast buck other than cheat and there is no such thing as love at first sight – a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet

MORE than 10 years ago when the Internet and e-mails first became popular, many crooks found them to be the most convenient way of cheating people, especially those living thousands of miles away.

The scams were simple ones that played on the element of pity and the sums asked for were small.

Some of the con-artists would pretend to represent certain well-known charitable organisations soliciting US$10 (about RM31).

Many kind-hearted and gullible people did reply to such e-mails and ended up sending cash by post.

If 1,000 people around the world responded, these crooks would get away with US$10,000 (RM31,000) but chances are they got a lot more.

However, people then wised up to such tricks and these criminals got more sophisticated.

While previously they preyed on people’s generosity, now they have turned to our greed.

Greed is what the “winning lottery ticket scam” is based on.

People would get e-mails informing them that they had won a lottery worth millions.

They would be convinced into paying some money in order to get hold of the bigger sum.

Of course, playing on greed is the surest way to make a scam work.

There have been various versions of this winning lottery scheme and they are so obviously tricks, yet

all sorts of people have been cheated.

I know of a doctor and a magistrate who lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit to these crooks, who more often than not originate from Africa or specifically Nigeria.

Apologies to any Nigerian who feels offended by this statement, but even the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has set up many task force teams to tackle and arrest such cyber crooks.

Even 10 years ago, I had found that the NPF had set up a website to handle such complaints.

I even took to e-mailing all suspicious looking e-mails soliciting money or trying to tempt me with money to the NPF, which wrote me a letter of thanks for doing so.

The scams have got even more sophisticated and the crooks started registering e-mail addresses with names of people supposedly related to despots, dictators or deposed leaders from the continent. This was called the inheritance scam.

Their claim is that their father/mother/brother/sister/uncle/friend was that deposed leader and had stashed away millions in a secret account in an off-shore bank and needed to use your account to transfer the money out of that country.

They promised to share the loot and hundreds, if not thousands, have fallen for this trick all over the world.

How people can be so naïve and greedy is beyond comprehension.

Look, there is no such thing as easy money unless it is a trick by a conman to get your money from your wallet.

Just like the black money scam, where these people offer to sell you millions of US dollars for a fraction of the value. The catch was that you needed to buy special chemicals that would “wash specially treated black paper” into becoming US dollars.

Just on Monday night, 76 people, mostly Africans, were arrested by Federal police for cheating hundreds of people of RM29mil through various scams.

Bukit Aman commercial crime investigations deputy director SAC Datuk Rodwan Mohd Yusof said the police received 945 reports from January to October over con jobs that included parcel scams, black money, inheritance swindles and black magic.

A parcel scam is where the schemer would inform a victim that he or she had received parcels with expensive gifts, jewellery or cash, but the parcels had been detained by Customs.

The victim is then persuaded to make a payment to a stipulated account for the parcel to be released.

The schemers reaped RM19.6mil through this scam, the biggest loss suffered by the victims.

This was followed by the black money scam, which netted RM1.4mil.

“The crimes involving African scams are getting serious, with more people falling prey to them,” SAC Rodwan said.

This should be a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet.

But these scams only rob your pockets, unlike those who prey on innocent ones, especially young women, into becoming drug mules.

Again many Africans are being blamed for this.

They use the social media, namely Facebook, to befriend Malaysian women and lure them to carry a bag to a foreign country.

There are about 100 such women languishing in jails in places like Peru and China for trying to smuggle drugs into those countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohi­lan said these syndicates were targeting young women, aged between 20 and 35, without any criminal record.

Kohilan said he spoke to six women who were caught for drug trafficking in Peru during a bilateral visit there last year.

“They claimed that they were cheated. One said a man had promised to marry her and asked her to carry a luggage to Peru,” he said.

Police have found that these tricksters are usually good looking and had the gift of the gab.

Young women easily “fall in love” with them and end up willing to do anything for them.

Parents should remind their daughters that there are many predators on the Internet and all of them have no good intentions.

A recent survey by the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) found 80% of 100 girls, aged between 15 and 17 surveyed over eight months, had received calls or text messages from strangers via mobile phone while 54% of them had chatted online with strangers.

The centre’s programme director Dr Prema Devaraj said the findings showed young women were now easily accessible to people whom they did not know, including potential perpetrators.

“Many of them don’t seem to understand the danger in making friends with strangers by chatting online or over the phone.

“They may feel ‘safe’ because they are not in the presence of the person they are chatting with,” Dr Prema said.

It is not enough to teach our children to be streetwise.

They must also be taught to be cyberwise. There are just too many crooks and monsters out there.

Mother of all scams – Many fall for Bukit Aman scam,Syndicates clone caller IDs of enforcement agencies

Many fall for Bukit Aman scam


PETALING JAYA: We have heard of the Nigerian 419 scam, the AL-Globo lottery scam, but the Bukit Aman scam must surely be the mother of all scams.
Part of Bukit Aman's police facilities, as see...Image via Wikipedia
A syndicate posing as police officers from Bukit Aman has been ripping off unsuspecting victims of hundreds of thousands of ringgit by claiming that they are being investigated for alleged money laundering.

Their latest victim is an elderly woman who lost about RM260,000.

Relating the ordeal, the woman who only wanted to be known as Margeret, in her 60s, said she received a phone call on Aug 18 from a man claiming to be a police inspector from Bukit Aman.

She said the “officer” told her that she was being investigated by the Hong Kong police over dealings with two drug dealers there.

“The officer told me that if I did not cooperate fully with police investigations, I would be extradited to Hong Kong to face charges for the offence,” she told The Star yesterday.

Margeret said the officer then passed to her the number of a senior police investigator in Hong Kong to verify the matter.

“I called the number given and a man claiming to be a police officer warned me that I was being investigated together with 28 other people for alleged dealings with drug dealers there,” she said, adding that the man told her to cooperate fully with the police here.

She said she then received another call from a senior police inspector in Bukit Aman who asked her to transfer all her money into an account provided by them.

“They said this was to help them verify that the funds were not linked to drug dealers in Hong Kong,” she said, adding that she transferred a total of RM260,000 from five separate banks to the police here.

Margeret said the officer told her to transfer any additional funds she had to facilitate police investigations failing which she would be arrested.

“I told them that I had an additional RM128,000 in a fixed deposit account in Temerloh, but I could not withdraw the money until the next day.”

Fearing something was amiss, she lodged a police report with the Mentakab police.

Federal Commercial Crimes Investigations Department (CCID) deputy director Deputy Comm Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa said police were investigating the case and appealed to the public to contact Bukit Aman to verify the calls.

Syndicates clone caller IDs of enforcement agencies


PETALING JAYA: Syndicates are using special technology to dupe unsuspecting victims into believing they are being called by real law enforcement agencies.

The Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is used to replicate phone numbers of the police, Bank Negara and other government agencies.

“The victims do not know they are being duped as the caller ID is identical to the real number of the relevant authority,” Federal head of CyberSecurity and Multimedia Investigation Division Asst Comm Mohd Kamaruddin Md Din told The Star, referring to reports on the Bukit Aman scam.

VoIP is a family of technologies, communication protocols and transmission techniques for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet.

The modus operandi of the syndicate involved in the Bukit Aman scam was to tell victims that they were being investigated by Hong Kong police for money-laundering activities.

“The syndicate then tells the victims that they must transfer all their savings into an account which is provided by the syndicate in order to verify that the funds are not linked to any cases,” ACP Kamaruddin said, adding that victims were told the money would be transferred back to their accounts once Bank Negara had completed investigations.

He said there had been 76 such cases reported nationwide amounting to losses of more than RM3.05mil between January and June this year.

ACP Kamaruddin advised the public to immediately contact the relevant authorities if they received such calls.

He said there had been a total of 367 cases involving bogus police, bank and government officials between January and June this year, resulting in losses of more than RM10mil.

“Last year, there was a total of 996 cases amounting to about RM17.4mil in losses,” he said, adding that in most cases the money could not be retrieved as the syndicates operated from outside the country.

Hackers, not all hack for the heck of it! Who are the anonymous hackers? Beware of Seduction!


Some do it for fun or fame, others to make a political statement. But a bigger number of hackers are now doing it for money.

THEY brought down the CIA website and attacked Sony, Nintendo and a few tech companies with links to FBI and the US Senate. They wanted to expose the online weaknesses of these entities, “for the Lulz”, they bragged.

But what is grating the American authorities and security experts most about the group who carried out the cyber attacks, Lulz Security, an offshoot of the notorious activist hacker group Anonymous, is that they used basic hacking “tools” available for free online.

One irate network security expert, Paul Ducklin of Sophos, even branded them “a bunch of schoolboys” who did something as intellectually challenging as “boasting in the playground about who’s got the hottest imaginary girlfriend”.

Beware: A hacker group threatening to attack Malaysian government websites.

It sounds like sour grapes to me, laughs a local IT student and part-time hacker who only wants to be known as “W”.

“This is the democratisation power of technology; it is now easy for anyone to start hacking,” he says.

Technological advancement has inadvertently lowered the bar for hacking, concurs Nigel Tan, the Asia-South principal consultant at online security company Symantec Corporation (Malaysia).

“In the past you have to write the programme yourself. Now there are toolkits available online, and you can create your own malware easily using these toolkits,” he says.

Symantec believes that the availability of these kits are likely responsible for the increase of malicious attacks on the Internet.

As its recent Internet Security Threat Report showed, there were more than 286 million new cyber threats last year, compared with 120 million in 2008.

But you don’t really need statistics to show how rampant cyber attacks are growing.

Since last December, the world has been bombarded by a flurry of hacking incidents the highest-profiled possibly being the hacking of PayPal, MasterCard, and Visa by Anonymous in support of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

In March, the database of marketing group Epsilon was rampaged and millions of email addresses were stolen. In April and May, Sony’s PlayStation network was attacked, more than once, exposing some 77 million users’ data.

And in the past three weeks, the security of the International Monetary Fund, CitiBank, the Spanish police, Google, the CIA and our own government websites was breached.

While many of the hackers prefer to remain in the dark corners of the Internet, there seems to be an increase of groups like Lulz and Anonymous who want to grab their 15 minutes of fame for their hacking activities.

New breed

In their claim to fame, Lulz went as far as to open up a hotline to get public suggestions for their next target. The hotline number is said to spell out LULZSEC and callers are reportedly greeted by a male voice heavily tinged with a French accent, which then apologetically explains that “Pierre Dubois and Francois Deluxe” are unavailable because they are “up to mischief on the Internet”.

The group is obviously relishing the limelight, publicly taunting the authorities, not even bothering to hide (or purposely exhibiting) their telephone area code.

Despite their pop cultural references they use the Guy Fawkes masks popularised by the comic book and movie V for Vendetta for their public image Anonymous is less playful.

The “hacktivist” group’s activities are self-proclaimed as acts of political activism. In its attack on the Malaysian government websites, for instance, Anonymous announced that it was a protest against the Government’s decision to block a few file-sharing websites, which they claim is an infringement of Malaysians’ human rights.

The open stance aside, the real identities of these two groups are difficult to detect, as international security personnel who have been tasked to trace them are discovering.

Anonymous, which has been around for almost a decade, for one, is a loose group made up of an indefinite number of members.

As one admirer was quoted: “If you claim you are a member of Anonymous, then you are a member.”

There is a cautionary tale on the web of how one man, HBGary Federal chief executive officer Aaron Barr declared war on Anonymous, only to find himself at their mercy.

In February, Barr had claimed that he had successfully uncovered the real identity of the group’s top honchos and announced that he would expose them. Before he knew it, his website was hacked and his database compromised. Important files were deleted while his phone system was crosswired.

Anonymous also took control of the company’s email, leaking confidential business emails and dumping thousands of others. The whole attack cost HBGary Federal million-dollar losses and he retracted his claims.

As Anonymous announced later, the company was taken down by five of its members, which included a 16-year-old girl, another slap in Barr’s already burning face.

A young Malaysian hacker who only wants to be known as Ahmad shares that many of his peers look up to Anonymous not only because of their political activism but also their technical prowess.

Says the IT student, “It is now easy to hack into different systems, but it is not easy to cover your tracks. Anonymous is master at it.”

Ahmad, however, concedes that he finds it strange that Anonymous has targeted Malaysia. “Sure, they have clearly stated their intentions, but I am still trying to wrap my mind around what it has to do with them. Why is Malaysia important to them?”

W believes that the web may be the final frontier for activism, as promoted by Anonymous and the growing breed of hactivists. “In the last few years, the Internet has been a useful tool for activists to get their message out and to mobilise supporters. Maybe now it is time to carry out their activism campaign in cyberspace itself.”

When asked if he had taken part in the recent Anonymous-initiated cyber attack on Malaysian government websites, Ahmad profusely denies any involvement, but he admits that he and his friend have hacked into other websites before.

“We like to challenge each other, as a test of our IT skills. Many of us do it for fun, just to see if we can get in. We don’t steal the data or do any other harm. We have also hacked for classroom lessons’ after being assigned tasks of hacking into a few websites to learn about cybersecurity,” he reveals.

For many young hackers, he says, many do it to get noticed by security firms.

“It is still a new area and there are not many professional’ hackers those who work with security firms to hack into their systems after they install it to ensure that the systems are really secure. Then there are companies who hire hackers to test the security of new programmes. Our hacking activities are like our auditions or resumes,” he shares.

Symantec’s Tan, however, alerts that while these so-called harmless “fun hacking” and hacktivism activities appear to be growing, a bigger number of hackers are doing it for money lots of it.

“I believe that in the last few years, there was a major shift in hacking those who are doing it for fame or fun have decreased. Now hackers are doing it for money. It is big business. Those who are making a big noise are the minorities; more prevalent are those who are involved in the underground economy activities. They are more quiet and targeted in their attacks and would rather keep below the radar so that they can continue their work longer,” he cautions.

Who do the anonymous hackers represent?


THE flap over the hacker attack of the Malaysian Government’s portal has come and gone as swiftly as the click of a mouse.

However, the scale of the problem and the magnitude of the issues around it remain considerable.

To avoid unnecessary confusion, it is important to spell out the issues at stake before dwelling on the justness or otherwise of any particular motive.

In this specific instance, the hackers in the collective international identity of Anonymous had targeted the official websites of a sovereign nation.

Since it was not an attack on a political party or individual personalities but on an entire country’s online representation, the hackers are culpable of anything from vandalism to subversion.

The attack was also not against any sinister policy of the Government but rather against its obligated move to block file-sharing websites that allow unlawful downloading of films and music.

Thus Anonymous is merely a group of selfish persons seeking to benefit personally from the work of professional artistes at the latter’s expense.

Their motivation was therefore neither just nor defensible.

They are an accessory to illegal and unethical activities, if not also guilty of those activities themselves.

The fact that Malaysia became the first country in the region to block file-sharing websites does not detract from the rights and wrongs of the issues.

A country such as Malaysia has been besieged by various parties clamouring for better enforcement of laws against copyright piracy.

Whatever the record of such enforcement on the street, the clampdown on illegal file-sharing websites is certainly a plus especially when most infringements these days are being committed this way.

At the same time, for a government to resist Internet censorship despite the temptations is definitely commendable.

Attempts to liken Anonymous to Wikileaks are also grossly misplaced.

Wikileaks did not try to deface or destroy websites or to steal official secrets, but only to relay information of public interest to the public domain against the wishes of governments claiming to work for the public.

If hackers had any righteous values or morals, they would have applied their skills to attack websites spewing race hatred and child pornography, among others.

They fact that they do not, and that they have had to remain anonymous, speak volumes about their lack of scruples.

Seduction on the web

LIKE the spider luring the fly into his web, hackers are “seducing” their victims and luring them to their websites.

A major way for cybercriminals to obtain confidential data is by creating fake websites to host malicious software (malware) or to trick you into providing this information (phishing), says Nigel Tan, the Asia-South principal consultant at online security company Symantec Corporation (Malaysia).

Symantec’s study shows that spikes in hacking and phishing occur during major events in the world, like the recent British Royal Wedding or the tsunami tragedy in Japan.

Hackers take advantage of these events to get people to click on links to their fake websites so that they can steal people’s confidential information.

“It is human nature to get the latest update of an important global event or to see pictures of a tragedy. Hackers exploit this by sending emails with links for pictures or stories on the event or tragedy,” he says.

“When someone clicks on the link, they will be taken to the fake website where their confidentiality will be compromised or their computer may be affected.”

However, it remains a challenge to determine whether a website is genuine or fake other than the obvious spelling and grammatical errors (many fake websites are rush jobs) or shoddy infrastructure and programming.

Worse, sometimes you can go to a trusted website which has links to websites or advertising that may not be genuine and contain malware or phishing mechanisms.

Sometimes, all you have to do is to click the link and you will taken to a website that will affect your computer.

“We call this drive-by download,’” says Tan.


Password is another easy prey for cyber criminals. With many websites out there now requiring users to register, most people are resorting to using personal information like date of birth or address as their password. Worse, people are increasingly using the same password for everything.

“It is understandable that people will not remember if they use different passwords, but the danger of using the same password for everything is that once a website or your email is compromised by a hacker, they will have access to everything else.”

Fortunately, it is not too difficult to strengthen your password, says Tan, advising people to use at least eight letters in a combination of capital letters, small letters, numbers and symbols.

If you use the same password, you can have variations on it by adding different letters or numbers or symbols, the significance of which should only be understood by you.

“Another effective safeguard is to segmentise your passwords by having one set of password for communication, another set for websites and another for banking and shopping online,” he elaborates.

Technology has also enabled hacking activities to be more targeted, so like those living in big houses in affluent areas who are targeted by burglars, those with bigger bank accounts or higher profiles, for instance, will be more susceptible to cyber attacks and need to be more vigilant on the Net.

Botnet alert

Another growing threat is hackers using our identity or computer to launch an attack.

Citing the recent hacking as an example, Tan says that while an individual may not be a direct focus target of most hackers, they may be a part of the attack without realising it.

The more common modus operandi is for hackers to use our personal information to get access to their target website. A method that is growing rampant is to control our computer to do their dirty work.

Explains Tan: “Now, hackers do not create malware to crash the computer, they want it to be alive. What they do is to plant malware called botnets (which are like sleeper spies) that will stay quietly in the background in your computer until they are activated by the Master to hack into official websites or to send spam emails that will phish information or crash a website.”

For example, if a hacker wants to spam people, they will just activate the malware they have planted in the different computers around the world and something like a pyramid scheme will be at work (the number of spams spread exponentially).

“The computer owner may not be doing anything but his or her computer will be hard at work. This trend is growing, especially now with broadband; so many people are connected 24 hours a day, even when they are asleep,” says Tan.

It is thus vital that people ensure that their computers are well-protected.

“One thing to remember is that although it is getting easier for cyber criminals and hackers to attack us, it is also getting easier for us to protect ourselves. The problem is that people just don’t do it,” he notes, adding that it is also important to ensure that your software and programmes are up-to-date as older computers with outdated software are the most prone to attacks.

Ultimately, he stresses, it boils down to common sense.

“Typically, you won’t walk into a dark alley or you won’t give a stranger your IC number, so you should not do the same on the Net,” says Tan.



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Many fall for Aussie job scam

Women swindle RM25,350 from 19 victims by promising highly paid work

By Ivan Loh, The Star/Asia News Network

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