Over MVR 7.4 mln lost to scams in 1.5 years

Maldives Police Services has stated that over MVR 7.4 million was scammed from people over the past year and a half.

Speaking on a program aired by state TV, PSM, Superintendent of Police Ali Faiz said 226 cases of scamming were reported to the police in 2020. Over MVR 3.5 million was scammed in these cases, said the police, noting that such activities had increased during the current pandemic.

Faiz further said such scams targeting random people have been on the rise for the past 10 years. However, scammers are now more organized and use better methods to carry out fraudulent activities, he noted. Scammers forge documents from companies and often target wealthy individuals, said Faiz.

The police said most scam calls originate from prisons, and such calls have been linked to Maafushi Prison, as well as Lh. atoll, L. atoll, and Addu atoll. Most scammers are ex-convicts, the police noted.

The police also said fraudulent activities and scams linked to currency exchange transactions are also on the rise. While US dollars are sold on the black market via messaging platforms such as Viber and Telegram, sellers promise to transfer the dollar equivalent for such transactions but do not respond to buyers after they receive the equivalent amount in local currency, said the police. 72 such cases were reported to the police and amount to a loss of MVR 1.4 million, the police said.

Elaborating further on scam calls that originate from prisons, Chief Inspector of Police Nahid Hussain said scammers pretend to be other people, or representatives from shops, organizations, and companies. Most mobile numbers used to conduct the scams are registered to foreigners, and over 800 numbers may be registered to one individual. This, in turn, increases the challenges faced in identifying the perpetrators, said the police. The scammed funds are rarely recovered.

On many occasions, scammers target shops and send fake transfer slips after buying items from such establishments. The scammers first scout the shops and check prices of items, and go back to the shop a second time with a pre-prepared transfer slip to purchase the items. The police urged shops to be vigilant to such scams and advised the establishments to verify if the money entered the shop's account before releasing the products.

The police further reminded that banks would not call customers and ask for card details. The police urged the public to verify the identity of the people they are in contact with regarding financial transactions and to verify the authenticity of the transactions before moving forward. They further advised the public not to communicate with anyone who asks for card details.