What is the ‘Macau Scam’?

We are calling from the police station. We have intelligence showing that you are a suspect in a case. Failure to respond to it may obstruct your freedom of travel. For more information, press 1.”
This is just one of many scenarios that commonly play out in phone scams across South and Southeast Asia, and which are increasingly being dubbed by international media as the “Macau Scam”.
The number of scam victims seems to be rising particularly fast in Malaysia, where new reports surface every week.
How these fraudulent calls came to be known as Macau Scams remains uncertain. According to some sources, it is because this type of scam originated in Macau.
“The term ‘Macau Scam’ was coined because it is believed that it originated from Macau or that the first victims came from there,” notes a report by Malaysian news outlet, The Star, about the scam’s namesake, though it quickly adds that, “this has never been confirmed.”
Police reports from the Macau authorities show that not only are such scams common in the SAR, but that they are becoming more frequent too.
Accordingly, another theory suggests that Macau lends its name to the fraudulent behavior precisely because the scams are so common in Macau.
Other scenarios in the so-called Macau Scam fraud calls include a lucky draw win notification or a ransom request.
Victims might receive calls saying that they have won a lucky draw and they need to send money to a certain account in order to collect their prize.
Or they might face a ransom request that seems to be authentic to the victim. In such cases, the phone scammers hand the call over to another person who claims to have been kidnapped and yells for help. The alleged kidnapping victim is then said to be a relative of the victim.
In an article published by the BBC, Scripps College psychology professor, Stacey Wood, found that “even though about 60% identified the solicitations [of lucky draw scams] as likely a scam, they also still viewed the opportunity as potentially beneficial.”
Local law enforcement entities regularly issue warnings against these scams with the stated purpose of educating the public not to fall for them. The Macau police advise the public to remain vigilant and not to panic or blindly follow the instructions given by unverified callers without first contacting the police or the financial institutions allegedly involved.

Categories Macau