Recently Malaysia has become a major hub for scams, most prominently romance scams in which the scam artist, the only criminal we refer to as an artist, contacts the victim on a legitimate dating website, such as Match.com and starts an online relationship with the victim that soon progresses to a plea for money. It has been estimated that the total cost of Malaysian cybercrime last year was 300 million dollars with romance scams being one of the most prominent of the scams perpetrated. Two American women, in particular each was swindled out of more than $250,000. The scammers are quite often from Nigeria or Ghana, but come to Malaysia because it is easy to get a student visa, the country has a sophisticated computerized banking system and the Internet infrastructure is strong. This creates a perfect storm for scammers. Often the scammers pose online as American, Canadian, Australian or British nationals who are in Malaysia for business.
There are many red flags to help you identify romance scams. The most important thing to remember is to always be skeptical of anyone who falls in love with you quickly online without ever meeting you and early into the relationship needs you to wire money. Here are a few other things to look for to help identify a romance scam. Often their profile picture is stolen from a modeling website on the Internet. If the picture looks too professional and the person looks too much like a model, you should be wary. Particular phrases, such as “Remember the distance or color does not matter, but love matters a lot in life” is a phrase that turns up in many romance scam emails. Also be on the lookout for bad spelling and grammar as many of the romance scammers claim to be Americans, but are actually foreigners lying about where they are and who they are. Of course you should be particularly concerned if someone falls in love with you almost immediately. Often they will ask you to use a webcam, but will not use one themselves. This is another red flag. One thing you may do is ask them to take a picture of themselves holding up a sign with their name on it. In addition, ask for a number of pictures because generally when the scammers are stealing pictures of models from websites, they do not have many photographs. Ask for the picture to be at a particular place that you designate to further test them. In particular be wary of requests for money to assist your new “friend” out of difficult situation, which may be a false arrest, a car accident, an illness, injury or other emergency.