Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beware Of SMS SCAMS!!!

SMS SCAM: Good sense saved legal adviser

WHEN Sivakumar Kariupyiah received an SMS last week claiming to be an announcement from Astro, he suspected it was a scam -- especially since the SMS said his SIM card had won him RM14,000.

He was required to call an overseas number starting with +62 (country code for Indonesia).

Curiosity made this 28-year-old legal adviser call the number.

"The man who picked up my call had an Indonesian accent. He congratulated me and asked me if I wanted to collect the winnings in cash or cheque.

"Before I could answer, he said it would be easier if I provided him with my bank account number so that they could bank in the money. I asked him who he was to ask me for my account number."

Sounding shocked, the man told Sivakumar to visit their office at Bukit Jalil on the same day, stressing that he had to do it before 5pm.

"He told me that if I did not do it by 5pm, I would no longer be eligible for the prize.

"He even gave his name as 'Ramal' and told me that all I needed to do was mention it to the security guards."

Sivakumar hung up and forwarded the message to the National Consumer Complaints Centre director Darshan Singh.

SMS SCAM: How the text message scammers work

THERE are two types of text message (SMS) scams according to Commercial Crime Investigation Department's Cyber and Multimedia Investigation Division assistant director ACP Mohd Kamarudin Md Din .

Type A: The scammers randomly select numbers and send SMS messages to them.

In the past they would ask victims to bank in money into an account as "processing' fees".

After a while, the modus operandi changed. Now people are being duped of their cash through Internet banking.

Victims are asked if they have an Internet banking account ID and password, and if they don't, they are asked to go to the nearest ATM machine to activate it.
When the victim is at the machine, he would be instructed on how to activate the Internet banking account. What the victims don't realise is that they are activating it using pin numbers given by the cheaters.

They would be asked to insert their ATM card and after keying in their pin number, they would be asked to key in another number.

This number is actually the Internet banking account's password.

After a while, these cheaters would access the account using that password and transfer all the money out.

Type B: A SMS was sent saying you have won an overseas lottery.

The scammer would inform the victim that the money was ready to be banked into the account but that the country's banking regulations required that some money has to banked in first before the winnings could be transferred.

When the victim banks in the money, they would then be asked to put in more money into the account as he or she had won even more money.

The cheaters would then ask for more and more until the victim loses all his or her money or until the victim realises that it is a scam.

SMS SCAM: Congratulations, you've won RM19,000
Police are concerned that text message scams have become as serious as scratch-and-win scams
Police are concerned that text message scams have become as serious as scratch-and-win scams

Remember that text message. If you ignored it you made a wise decision. Those who took the offer ended up losing up to RM1.2 million. SONIA RAMACHANDRAN and AUDREY VIJAINDREN call attention to the issue

AT least one report a day. That's how serious the SMS scam is. According to police the number of scams is increasing with some victims losing up to RM1.2 million

The number of people falling prey is similar to the scratch-and-win scam before it was banned last year, police say.

The National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) received 2,456 complaints and 3,133 cases were heard at the Consumer Claims Tribunal in 2006 and last year.

How much do they end up losing?

In a simple SMS scam, the highest an individual has lost is RM17,000. But one person lost RM1.2 million in an SMS lottery scam.

Commercial Crime Investigation Department Cyber and Multimedia Investigation Division assistant director ACP Mohd Kamarudin Md Din said in the past, SMS scam losses were between RM1,000 and RM5,000 as victims were asked to deposit money as "processing fees".

But with Internet banking, the perpetrators siphon out every sen from a person's account.

The perpetrators prey on a person's greed by sending an SMS saying they had won a contest or lottery.

When the victim gives his account number and other details, he ends up losing his money instead.

"I'm worried because through Internet banking they can transfer out everything and just leave you RM1.

"If the cheater uses a Malaysian registered phone number we have no problem tracing it.

The problem is when a foreign registered number is used and the money is transferred out of the country.

"It is difficult for us to investigate.

"Some countries do not make it compulsory for prepaid numbers to be registered so it's difficult for even the authorities there to trace these people," Kamarudin said.

Although the number that the victims were asked to call was an overseas one, Kamarudin said, some people assumed it was a local 1-800 toll-free number.

"The problem is as serious as the scratch-and-win scams.

"We receive reports on this every day and these are just those who lodge reports.

"It is a nationwide problem which started in late 2005 and the number of victims is increasing."

He said the bottom line was that the victim honestly believed he had won a prize.

"There are many genuine contests going on so people are confused whether something is real or not.

"Sometimes they even tell the victims that the contest had been approved by the police."

Kamarudin said the cheaters were coming up with different methods of transferring money from these scams.

They were even resorting to "renting bank accounts".

"They tell Malaysians they are doing business and that they need local bank accounts.

"They offer RM150 to open a bank account and 10 per cent of any money banked into the account.

"So each person would open up more than one account with different banks.

"All the bank books and ATM cards would be given to the middlemen involved in this.

"These accounts would then be used for the SMS victims to bank in the 'processing fees'.

"When the money is banked in, the middlemen would receive instructions from the syndicate and withdraw and transfer the money abroad."

Kamarudin said the victims included professionals, students, lorry drivers, housewives and kampung folk.

"People have to be aware of these types of scams.

"There is no such thing as easy money. When something is too good to be true, be suspicious and triple check before you part with your money."

Sometimes, the victims of these scams, Kamarudin said, did not have money, but because of their greed to win the "prizes", they get money from elsewhere and bank it into their accounts.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission's (MCMC) consumer complaints bureau recorded 229 complaints on SMS scams between January and May, this year.

MCMC has warned mobile telephone service providers to be wary of scams involving SMSes purportedly sent by well-known companies.

Among the organisations, products or popular shows that have been used by SMS scams, said a MCMC spokesperson, were Petronas, Maxis, Hotlink, Celcom, DiGi, Gang Starz and Akademi Fantasia.

The SMS claimed the user had won a prize or was a lucky winner.

"An example is: 'Tahniah! Prepaid anda memenangi hadiah wang RM30,000 dari Petronas. Sila call/telefon: +62xxxxxxxxxx.' (Congratulations! Your prepaid has won RM30,000 from Petronas. Please call/telephone: +62xxxxxxxxxx.)

"The SMS was usually sent from abroad.

"In the example above, the sender is from Indonesia (international code +62)," said the spokesperson.

Scams operated through SMS, said the spokesperson, were punishable under Section 420 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum 10 years' jail, whipping and a fine.

"Anyone receiving a SMS from an unknown source promising prizes is advised to report the matter to the police or the telco service provider.

"People are also advised not to reveal any banking information such as account number, bank balance and not to transfer money to unknown accounts.

"Alternatively, consumers can lodge a complaint with the MCMC's consumer complaints bureau," said the spokesperson.

NCCC director Darshan Singh said cheaters were getting away by using drug addicts to register prepaid numbers.

"There is no way to trace these people.

"This is a big problem because when police investigate these cases, they come to a dead end."

Darshan said consumers had a vital role to play in overcoming the problem.

"Why can't people put in some effort into verifying these SMSes? After all, if they are willing to part with thousands of ringgit, they should at least make some calls to verify where they are putting their money.

"People should not be gullible."

Darshan said the companies whose names are being used should also help put an end to these scams by using the mainstream media to alert the people.

SMS SCAM: Fraudsters usually use foreign telephone numbers

Maxis Communications

OVER the last month, Maxis has received about 100 queries via the about hoax SMS contests carrying the Maxis or Hotlink name.

These queries were mainly to verify if the SMSes were genuine.

"These messages have been in circulation in the past. They have misled many mobile subscribers, not just Maxis or Hotlink customers," said Maxis Communications head of product development and infotainment T. Kugan.

He said Maxis took the issue of spam and hoax SMS very seriously.

"We have in the past taken a proactive position in alerting and educating our customers on spam SMS and dubious SMS contests promising handsome cash rewards.
"In September last year, we installed the Maxis anti-spam platform.

"This works as a firewall that blocks out spam and hoax SMSes based on keyword identification.

"It stops unsolicited SMSes from reaching our customers.

"Since the installation of the anti-spam platform, an average of a million spam and hoax SMSes per month have been blocked."

But offenders often looked for ways to circumvent the system, Kugan said, and sometimes some of these messages slipped past its blocking mechanism.

"Because of this, we have a dedicated communication channel for customers to contact us about questionable SMSes.

"Maxis investigates all complaints and adds new hoax SMS cases to our anti-spam platform's database for future auto-blocking.

"Usually, these SMSes feature a foreign phone number for the recipient to respond to.

"This is an indication that the SMS could not have originated from Maxis or Hotlink. Customers are urged not to call these numbers."

He added that any SMS from Maxis or Hotlink would be sent from the Maxis sender ID, which is "Maxis" or "Hotlink".


ASTRO receives many inquiries seeking to verify if SMSes received regarding contests are from Astro.

Astro director of customer service Ahmad Mustaza Ismail said scam artistes preferred to use names of companies with a huge customer base.

"From our observation, SMS scams are seasonal and usually coincide with major campaigns or programmes that Astro is promoting.

"For instance, when Astro held its popular reality show Akademi Fantasia (AF), there were SMSes claiming to be from Astro to encourage the public to participate in the contest and win up to RM14,000," he said.

"Fans of AF would know that Astro only runs two contests in relation to AF and they are AFUNDI and AFQA. These contests are promoted on the Astro platform and website."

He said there was another SMS scam purportedly from Astro asking the public to participate in Astro's SIM card contest.

"Astro is not involved in this SMS contest and is not organising any contest in relation to the smartcard exercise."


THE company started receiving calls from the public in 2006. People called to verify whether or not they had won a prize after receiving messages from unknown numbers.

Petronas media relations department senior executive Ridzuan Zulkifli said he had handled more than 1,000 calls just on this.

"The most recent was the Petronas Car Craze Contest. This has been used by many perpetrators to cheat people.

"The real winners of the Car Craze Contest are sent official letters and they also receive a phone call from us."

He said these cheaters kept changing their modus operandi. The first round of SMS scams asked victims to bank in money in order to receive prizes.

"They claimed that the victim had been selected to win a prize and needed to bank in a certain amount of money."

Ridzuan said Petronas did not inform their customers through SMS because it would be inappropriate.

"There is a big amount of money involved, with cars worth RM80,000. In such cases, the conventional communication method is still the best, like phone calls and official letters.

"I had a call from a woman in Sarawak who was in tears because she had lost her savings after giving out her bank account details over the phone to an unknown party.

"The cheater told her that she had won a prize from Petronas, but needed her details to bank in the money. She willingly gave out the information and lost RM5,000 from her account."

Ridzuan said nine out of 10 callers knew these SMSes were scams.

"Until today, there have been more than a thousand calls from the public.

"Several of these callers claim to have lost money. There are over 40 such calls a year."

He said Petronas sympathised with the victims.

"These scams also reflect badly on us because our name is being misused. Over the last four months, there have been fewer calls from the public. But these scams are seasonal.

"Our corporate security department has lodged several police reports against these cheaters."


THE bank does not send text messages to customers requesting private information such as username and passwords related to banking.

"Text messages sent by the bank to customers are solely on product marketing and promotions which do not require customers' personal information," said a Maybank spokesperson.

SMS SCAM: Verify message and don't reveal bank account details third party


- When you receive an SMS saying you have won something, always verify it with the company named in the SMS. Contact the company in Malaysia and not the number given to you in the SMS.

- If the message cannot be verified, ignore it.

- If you are a victim, lodge a report.

- You should never provide your bank details, ATM card or PIN number to a third party. The same goes for Internet banking identification or password.

- Do not open a bank account for a third party. If you have done it, close it immediately and lodge a police report.
- If you are asked to call a number to verify your gift and the person on the other end claims to be Malaysian but has a foreign accent, be suspicious.

- Pay attention to the caution notices placed at ATMs.


- Do not respond to text messages from anyone requesting for private information such as Maybank2u username and password.

- Do not reveal your Internet username or password to anyone even if they claim to be from the bank.

- For certain transactions over, the bank has implemented a transaction authorisation code (TAC), an added online security feature. Do not register any third party mobile number at Maybank ATMs for the issuance of TAC. Only register your own mobile phone number so that the TAC is sent to you.

- Never allow a third party to use your ATM card or have access to your PIN.

- Always be careful when making online transactions especially at unsecured places like cyber cafes.

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