Recently, Malaysia has seen a rise in online scams, and it is foreseeable that this state of affairs will continue in the future. Examples include phishing scams, Nigerian love scams, Macau scams, and more. Things have gotten bad – really bad. This month, reports emerged of young Malaysians who were lured to Cambodia and forced by criminal syndicates to scam other Malaysians. One young man was left for dead under a false name in a Thai hospital, and his tearful parents could only bring home his ashes.
For the victims, being scammed can be disastrous. Some people lose their whole life’s savings. Others dip into the family fortune and pay to avert a disaster, not knowing that the disaster they want to avert is itself a scam.
So a relevant question is what recourse does a victim have under law? Here are some practicable steps for you, if you are in that situation.
Make a police report about the online scam
As soon as you realise that you have been scammed, or you suspect that you have been scammed, make a police report. This alerts the police and triggers the investigation process. After the recent high profile cases involving charges of money laundering against several top politicians in the country, the administration of the country is very much aware of the threat of money laundering.
The police commercial crime department at Menara KPJ, Jalan Tun Razak, has the authority to freeze accounts suspected of money laundering. (More about the procedures of money laundering in a future post, we promise — we recently concluded a case involving a false accusation against our client’s accounts.)
The police report is known as the FIR, or the first information report, and has no bearing to any fir trees. The lodgement of a police report causes the criminal investigation machinery to start turning, and with it, the case will eventually be investigated by a police officer. Evidence must be built up before a charge can be made against a suspect, so, you as the victim would need to provide all information that you can to facilitate this process.
What kind of evidence should you document or prepare?
The following may be of help to the police in uncovering the perpetrators of the crime:
- Screenshots of any instant messaging with the scammers;
- Bank records of any transactions with the scammers (they are helpful in uncovering mule accounts);
- Recordings of conversations or voice notes;
- Telephone numbers used to contact you;
- Details of communication channels used by the scammers to contact you.
Make a report to MCMC about the online scam
MCMC is the authority tasked with regulating the use, and abuse, of multimedia and telecommunications technologies. Its full name is Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. It has the authority to investigate wrongdoings perpetrated using the Internet, mobile phones, and fake websites. Its authority is not exclusive, and a crime reported under the MCMC Act can also be investigated by the police under the Penal Code, and when you are victim who was wronged, you tend to take pleasure in the knowledge that the law can stab the wrongdoer back in two or three different places when you have been wronged.
You will need to gather as much evidence as possible, similar to making a police report. A complaint to the MCMC can be lodged online at https://aduan.skmm.gov.my/ – it does not have to be in person.
Make an STR to BNM through your lawyer or accountant.
An STR is a suspicious transaction report. Your lawyer or accountant that works for you can help you lodge an STR to BNM to give details of the suspicious transaction. In fact, this instruction to lodge an STR is often repeated to law firms under the sector 5 KYC / AML requirements, but in the event your lawyer or accountant does lodge an STR, you should not expect to receive any acknowledgement from the central bank. What the central bank does with the information is beyond our knowledge and perhaps even beyond our need to know. But it is helpful as an additional channel for complaining against the scammer.
What kinds of laws are usable against an online scammer?
Some of the statutes which have relevant provisions include:
- Penal Code
- Communications and Multimedia Act
- Computer Crimes Act
- Personal Data Protection Act
- Capital Markets & Services Act
- Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act
What if the scammer is overseas?
It sometimes happens that the scammer is based overseas, and in such cases, you probably won’t be able to sue them here locally. But if you can build up a case against a local individual, or group of individuals, you could perhaps consider suing the agents here for maliciously, or negligently, and fraudulently, cheating you and causing you financial losses, for which you wish to seek compensation. However, bear in mind that, winning or losing your case will depend on the evidence that you have in hand, and if you want to win, you have to prove your case in court.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian police may be able to work with their counterparts in other countries to take down international scammers if they are so inclined, and by that, we mean if there is sufficient evidence provided from you and other victims which are sufficient to assist the police in their investigation. But, you must bear in mind that the end result of criminal prosecution is a conviction, and any fine will go to the government. If you seek compensation, you will need to institute civil proceedings.
Thanks for reading
This article was prepared to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with a licensed lawyer before making any decision.