We were approached by a client based in Canada who had been tricked into sending more than $400,000 US dollars to companies and individuals based in UK and Malaysia.
He was communicating via a known ‘gay dating site’, had an online relationship and developed feelings for an unknown male. This was a clever scam that took months to implement with various authentic tactics to justify that the scammer was actually who he said he was.
The client communicated with the scammer over several months. The scammer used recorded bank voice messages to convince my client that he had funds in his account. The scammer allowed my client to phone the automated ‘fake’ bank number and key in his alleged bank numbers to hear the balance of his account as a part to convince my client to send payments over to assist in a business deal. The client was tricked into sending various payment to the UK and Malaysia over several months.
Our objective was to uncover who was behind the scam and liaise with authorities as and where necessary. In addition we were asked to attempt to retrieve the client’s funds.
Initially we took a lengthy section 9 statement from our client detailing what actually happened and when. We looked at all bank transfer information and started our desktop research in order to identify the subjects behind this scam.
Through [OSI] Open Source Intelligence we mapped our intelligence and found out associated links between the subjects behind the companies in the UK where the money was transferred. After prolonged field enquiries, periods of static surveillance on an unused shop front which was the front of the scam company who received the funds, and discreet enquiries with shop owners and residents, we managed to get a small lead on locating the subjects involved.
We finally managed to trace one of the primary subjects in the UK who received the money on behalf of the ‘company’ and take it out in cash. After a period of surveillance, we understood this subject’s lifestyle and movements. We approached him at his residential address and questioned the company names and transfer amounts. We used hidden audio/video cameras and captured him acknowledging that he did indeed receive the money and that he took it out in cash and gave it to another involved who was based in Belgium. We traced the Belgium subject to a residential address too.
We had to trace the money trail in Malaysia, which is where the World Association of Detectives network proved extremely helpful. We reached out to a known local investigator for assistance and they managed to trace the subjects involved to residential addresses in Malaysia and this helped us build our intelligence chart.
We gave the subjects in the UK a chance to send the money back to our client or we would have no alternative but to hand our files to the UK authorities for them to run the case as they see fit.
As with most scammers, they didn’t return the money so we met with the UK police and handed over our file. The police were extremely impressed with our findings and acted upon our intelligence immediately. They welcomed all of our findings reports and allowed us to brief their personnel accordingly.
The UK police have now arrested the subject in the UK and he has been charged with money laundering. The client has still not recuperated as scammers rarely hold any assets in their name and apparently the money was taken out of the bank accounts in cash, but at least the client feels some justice has been done. He is content with the swift action we took and the intelligence we uncovered to assist the authorities in making the arrests.