The phone rings this morning from a KL number I don’t pay attention to, and it’s a guy speaking slowly in Malay.
I hear my name, but understand nothing else, so after his spiel I tell him I don’t speak Malay. “Inspector Teng,” he says he is, “from Bukit Aman.”
Oh dear, I think to myself, my activist activities have finally caught up with me…
But, instead of confessing everything, I keep calm and wait for him to tell me his story instead.
He says he is investigating money laundering following an arrest made in Johor Baru.
His English is not great, so it goes slowly. Even though he spoke Malay at first, his accent doesn’t sound Malaysian or, as his name suggests, Chinese, just laboured. I decide to help him along, and ask how am I involved.
“With the arrests,” he says, “they confiscated fake ICs and passports and I have your details here.”
“There is also a bank account in your name at MBank. Are you…” he reads my full name and passport number back to me.”
“Shit, yes” I say. “Well,” he continues, “I will need to take a statement from you to prove you are not involved.”
“Fuck that,” I think to myself growing suspicious, surely they have to prove I am involved?
He asks me a few questions. Did I open an account at MBank in November? Have I been to Johor Baru? Do I know Osman someone or other? I give minimal answers.
“So you are a foreigner, right?” he finally asks. That’s odd, I think to myself as I say yes, surely with my passport details in hand you would know this?
Scamming: a contest of wit
He then asks “what nationality are you?” and then I think no inspector would be this stupid. That, surely, you can glean from the passport info you supposedly have?
I avoid answering and he then says he has to call me back to record my statement to prove I am not guilty. Prove I’m not guilty!? Now it smells like fish*.
“Before you record anything”, I say turning the tables on him, “I would like to verify who you are, just so both of us know who we’re dealing with. Can I have your full name?”
He doesn’t skip a beat an says “Inspector An Sung Teng”. I ask for his badge number and he obligingly gives it. SR54022.
Lastly I ask where his office is. “Bukit Aman, do you have another phone?”
He tells me to dial 103 while staying on my mobile phone. It’s directory enquiries, he advises, and they will confirm the number he is calling from, which I then notice is 03 2266 2222 – supposedly Bukit Aman Police Station’s number.
I can’t help but notice his effort to keep me connected, and on the call, egging me on to do this check from another phone.
“Sure”, I say, “let me call you at the office, then we talk again.”
“No,” he says anxious, but firmly, “we have to follow procedures. I have to call you to make the recording. I will phone you back in 2 mins. This is the procedure for how we investigate this matter, so I have to call you back.”
I tell him that when I speak to him on the landline, then he can call me back if he needs to. I hang up.
Google already knows
As it turns out, 103 isn’t working. “All circuits are busy, try again later”. So I google the Bukit Aman Police Station’s number.
Wouldn’t you know it, a blog or 2 comes up outlining exactly what was happening here.
Apparently the number 03 2266 2222 actually is Bukit Aman Police Station, but somehow the scammers are spoofing the number via VOIP software or something.
Through good old scammer tactics of intimidation and manipulation, they try to scare the shit out of you any which way they can. Mentioning police and you are in trouble to a foreigner, especially one without a work permit, is usually quite effective. Not so much on the rest of us.
In this version of the scam they then try to convince you to transfer all your money to a “police” account for them to check for links with the supposed money launderers.
Mind-blowingly enough, lots of people actually fall for that shit. What do the victims think, the police is going to check the 1s and 0s of the electronic money you transfer?
2 minutes later the “inspector” phones back, obviously fancying his chances of concluding his scam. He starts, at a more urgent pace than his 1st call, with his story, but I interrupt him.
“I’m heading to the KK Police Station to make a report. You can call me there in 5 mins. You have the number, right, because you are real police, right?”
He mumbles, stumped by the sudden change in script.
“Call me there in 5 minutes, then I make a report in front of your colleagues. No need for complicated recordings. Just you, me and your police colleagues, OK, Inspector?”
After a long uhhhh, he says “uh, ok” and hangs up.
I go to the police station to file a report for the record anyway, but they say it’s the same old Bukit Aman Police Station scam, which has been around for a while.
This one just involves spoofing the actual station’s number, so beware.
Know your rights and give or do nothing over the phone before you haven’t verified who you are talking to. And don’t use any numbers they give you, but use numbers and info you find for yourself through proper channels.
A quick google search also doesn’t hurt and often brings up blogs like these, saving you a lot of potential hurt and trouble.