TIME Malaysia

Malaysia Is Becoming a Global Hub For Internet Scams Preying on the Lovelorn

IAC Will Turn Match Dating Service Into a Separate Business
The Match.com website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The ease of obtaining visas, opening bank accounts and arranging money transfers are all part of Malaysia's newfound criminal appeal.

Lax student visa regulations and a high-tech banking system has made Malaysia a global hub for Internet scams, according to U.S. officials, with money being swindled out of unwitting Americans and Europeans by racketeers prowling online dating sites.

The conmen typically hail from Nigeria or Ghana and dupe lonely, middle-aged men and women from the U.S. and Western Europe through matchmaking services like Match.com, reports Reuters. A dozen new cases are reported to the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur every week, with scam complaints forming four-fifths of new work for duty officers.

“This is a serious issue hurting many Americans financially and emotionally,” said a U.S. embassy spokesperson. “We would hope that through publicity more Americans would be made aware of these scams.”

While most Internet users have received — only to swiftly mock and discard — some crude Nigerian scam emails, these tricksters are more sophisticated, and slowly build trust as a budding romance ripens. Then the request for money comes, normally a relatively small amount at first; but once the hooks are in, the victim struggles to turn down subsequent heftier demands without admitting to having been hoodwinked.

“Some victims find it very hard to break away from the relationship, even when they’ve been told it’s not real,” says Professor Monica Whitty, an expert on Internet fraud psychology. “So the criminal admits to scamming the victim but says that they also fell in love with them at the same time, and they get back into the same scam.”

But it is not just lovelorn Americans who are being swindled; other foreign embassies in Kuala Lumpur are dealing with similar complaints, reports Reuters. Whitty says that at least 500,000 U.K. citizens have fallen prey to such “sweetheart scams” since the phenomenon was first reported around 2007.

Slightly more men than women are duped by fraudulent lovers, but men are less likely to seek recompense out of embarrassment.

“Some people mortgage their houses to pay these criminals,” Whitty says, “but often the devastation they feel is more about the loss of the relationship than the money — of realizing they’ve been duped.”

And worryingly, such scams appear to be growing more common; last year, U.S.-based IT security developer SOPHOS ranked Malaysia as sixth globally in terms of cyber crime threat risks, as the total cyber crime bill topped $300 million. The ease of obtaining visas, opening bank accounts and arranging money transfers are all part of the nation’s criminal appeal.

“Scammers are increasingly using targeted social engineering attacks against their victims due to the extremely high success rate,” Ty Miller, an Australian security expert and founder of Threat Intelligence, tells TIME. “This not only affects individuals, but also organizations.”

Awareness and technology are key to tackling this scourge, says Miller, who is running a fraud-prevention course in Kuala Lumpur in October. “Techniques can be deployed that allow malicious individuals to be tracked,” he says, “which as time goes on will build intelligence to unveil the identity of the perpetrators.”

Amirudin Abdul Wahab, CEO of CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, says all involved nations must share information and jointly investigate cases according to agreed procedures and technical processes.

“Various authorities from the various countries involved should work together rather than blaming each other,” he said by email. “These countries need to synergize their efforts, in order to effectively address this scam problem.”

TIME Crime

Infomercial Star Kevin Trudeau Jailed For 10 Years

Kevin Trudeau
Kevin Trudeau walks through the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois Chicago Tribune/Getty Images

The judge called Trudeau "deceitful to the core" at sentencing Monday, after the author violated a 2004 court order prohibiting him from running misleading ads for his bestseller "The Weight Loss Cure 'They Don't Want You To Know About"

Too-good-to-be-true TV infomercial star and best-selling author Kevin Trudeau was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday for defrauding millions of people with a phony weight-loss book.

“Since the age of 25, [Trudeau] has attempted to cheat others for his own personal gain,” U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman said at the 51-year-old’s sentencing Monday, adding that the scam artist was “deceitful to the core.”

A jury convicted Trudeau for violating a 2004 court order that prohibited him from running misleading ads for his bestseller The Weight Loss Cure ‘They Don’t Want You To Know About, which encouraged 500-calorie-a-day diets and hormone treatments. In spite of the order, Trudeau reportedly ran infomercials for the book 32,000 times.

The NYT bestseller sold 850,000 copies and created $39 million in revenue, but when Trudeau was fined $37 million he claimed to be broke — and that he didn’t know where he put $100,000 in gold bars he bought.

While Trudeau’s defense claimed that the 10-year sentencing over a $30 book was “overblown and unfair”, Guzman noted that the huckster had been violating similar court orders since the 90′s.

Trudeau sold millions of other books including Debt Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About and Natural Cures ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About and was fined $2 million by the FTC for claiming that Coral Calcium could cure cancer.

Trudeau’s attorneys plan to appeal the case.

TIME Security

New Netflix Phishing Scam Threatens the Internet

Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Computer security experts are warning about an elaborate new tech support scam where thieves pose as Netflix and Microsoft employees to steal from unsuspecting victims.

Computer security experts are warning about an elaborate new tech support scam where thieves pose as Netflix and Microsoft employees to steal from unsuspecting victims.

In the phishing scheme, potential victims’ login credentials are stolen by a fraudulent Netflix website. Scammers will then tell you that your account has been suspended for “unusual activity,” suggesting you call a toll-free phone number to address the issue.

Of course, that phone number doesn’t connect to Netflix – it’s a direct line to a call center in India trained to trick you into giving hackers access to your computer. If you’ll let them, the scammers will not only steal sensitive files from your computer, but swindle you out of $400 to “fix” your hacking problem.

The best way to avoid this scam is to know about it. It’s also worth investing extra caution when dealing with any kind of email alert about an account, online or otherwise. Don’t click on links in emails – type the company’s URL in your address bar manually. There are even more great tips in our guide to protecting yourself against online threats, helping you avoid all sorts of other scams.

The full, winding details of the scam are available on the Malwarebytes Unpacked blog. You can see a walkthrough of the scam in the Malwarebytes video below.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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