Police urge citizens to be wary of rising cyber-crime and fraud

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) has urged all citizens to be wary of cyber-crimes and the increasing prevalence of money-grabbing scams.

Speaking at a press conference today, MPS Drug Enforcement Department head Superintendent Ahmed Shifan said that cyber-crime has become an “emerging and trending” issue, with a separate police unit tasked with dealing with the problem.

Local media reported yesterday (December 30) that the Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem was claiming his official twitter account had been hacked and that all tweets posted after 11pm on December 29 were not posted by him.

Shaheem’s account showed one post after 11pm which reiterated his previously expressed discontent towards the Tourist Arrival Countdown Show which, at the time, was to feature Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul.

Sean Paul has since cancelled his appearance in the show, citing security concerns after a death threat appeared on Youtube last week. Religious religious groups within the country also called for the performance to be stopped.

In a press statement released today, the police also urged citizens to be more vigilant towards scams and embezzlement.

While revealing that two or three such cases are filed every week, the statement also said that such cases were difficult to proceed with because such criminals are often hard to trace.

The statement said that some of the most commonly reported cases were those where customers put in more money than was paid when getting mobile phone reload or ‘raastas’ services, and when scammers promised to provide gifts for money.

Police requested that people not hand money to anyone communicating through unknown phone numbers or individuals who promise monetary profits in return. They also urged shop keepers to dial in mobile phones of customers themselves.

People were asked to report any suspicious requests and to carry out monetary transactions more carefully.

Statistics provided by the police show that 374 embezzlement cases have been reported this year, compared to 391 in 2013.

Related to this story

Sean Paul cancels New Year’s appearance, citing security concerns

Police commissioner expresses concerns over 2012 cyber crime surge


Kaspersky rates Maldives 16th on online attack threat list

Internet security firm Kaspersky has ranked the Maldives 16th in a list of countries where the highest percentage of its customer base face online attacks, placing it between Ukraine and Moldova.

The Bloomberg news agency has reported that the list found 47 percent of Kaspersky’s customers in the Maldives had come under attack from cyber criminals during 2012.

Based on internet world statistics, around 34 percent of the Maldives population – an estimated 134,860 people – were online last year, the report added.

Despite ongoing concerns about the growing threat of potential cyber crime in the Maldives, Kaspersky concluded that neighbouring countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh faced even more prevalent online threats, placing them in 9th, 8th and 7th on the list respectively.

At the top of list was Russia, with Kaspersky – founded in the country – concluding that 59 percent of its customers in the nation had faced online assaults in 2012.

At the other end of the list, Spain and the US were placed at 20th and 19th place respectively.

In December last year, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) announced it had received 61 reports of suspected cyber crime in 2012 – a second consecutive annual increase in such offences since 2010.

Meanwhile, in September 2012, the MPS announced it would be forming a special Cyber Policing Department.

Police stated at the time that three units will be operating under the new department, including the cyber crime investigation unit, cyber forensics unit and cyber security unit.


Police launch investigation into social media sex scandal ring

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has said police have received reports that people are being solicited for cybersex over social media and blackmailed with compromising pictures and videos.

Commissioner Riyaz confirmed the investigation to local newspaper Haveeru but declined to provide details. A police media official likewise declined to provide any information beyond confirming the investigation was underway, or whether any arrests had been made.

Police investigated a similar case in February 2011, leading to the arrest of 14 people. Police concluded the investigation and sent it to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but the case was never sent to court.

At the time, police revealed the 14 individuals, including a minor, had been arrested on suspicion of obtaining hundreds of nude pictures and videos stored on computers and external hard drives.  It was alleged that these images had been obtained through inviting Maldivians to befriend fake Facebook profiles with the image of a young blond woman, and soliciting them for cybersex.

Police said at the time that two profiles with the names of ‘Lyshiaa Limanom’ and ‘Angelic Sharrown’ were used by the suspects to gather compromising pictures and videos of victims performing explicit acts, in some cases in the presence of minors. Investigators stated that they would also be investigating these people people for committing crimes.


Bank of Maldives issues email scam warning to customers

Bank of Maldives (BML) has urged customers to avoid sending personal details such as bank card or account numbers via email after issuing a warning about fake messages being sent in the company’s name.

BML has said it received information of a phishing scam where fraudulent emails under the company’s name were being sent from the address ‘[email protected]’ asking clients to verify their accounts online.

“We assure that the mentioned email is not related to Bank of Maldives in any way and would like to inform all customers not to respond to such emails,” the company stated.

“If your confidential information is obtained in any such manner, this information can then be used fraudulently, as such we remind all customers of the importance of ensuring the security and confidentiality of your accounts, card information and access codes”, BML added.

The company stated that it would never request customers disclose confidential information about their accounts via email or SMS.  BML said that customers should only enter their account data after accessing the company’s official website by typing ‘www.bankofmaldives.com.mv’ into their browser.


Police investigating ‘Moneygram’ fraud worth MVR49.9 million

Police are investigating a MVR49.9 (US$3.2 million) fraud case involving money transfer organisation ‘Moneygram’.

Police told local media that the case was reported on March 13 was now under investigation.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef said the case was handed to the police cyber crime department as the fraud was conducted over the internet.

Chairman of Maldives Post Limited (MPL) Ahmed Nizam told newspaper ‘Sun’ that the company came to know about the missing money last week and reported it to police.

He told the paper that it appeared the money was stolen through hacking.

Maldives Post Limited has temporarily ceased offering money transfer through Moneygram “until the police investigation is concluded that the MPL is sure this sort of thing will not happen again.’’

Maldives Post Limited and police have not provided details of the case.

MPL website states that ‘’Moneygram is a person-to-person money transfer virtually to any place around the world. Moneygram is an extensive and proficient network, linked by computers, which will transfer your money around the world with care.’’

According to the Maldives Post website, MPL in association with MoneyGram provides money transfer service to 39,000 locations in 150 countries around the world.

The website also states that ”Moneygram is based in Denver, Colorado USA. It was started in 1988 and since then has emerged to become one of the world leaders in the electronic transfer of money around the world. Moneygram has developed top-end technological solutions for its business, which are highly secure and reliable.”


Police commissioner expresses concerns over 2012 cyber crime surge

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has said it has received 61 reports of suspected cyber crime so far in 2012 – a second consecutive annual increase in such crimes since 2010.

Unveiling the statistics today at a ceremony to inaugurate the “IT Legislation in the Maldives” seminar held at Bandos Island Resort and Spa, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz was quoted in local media as expressing concern at a continued rise in reported cyber crime in the Maldives.

According to Commissioner Riyaz, 15 reports of cyber crime were received by authorities back in 2010, a figure that was said to have increased to 41 cases over the course of 2011.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported Riyaz as claiming that there was not presently any methods for regulating suspected cases of cyber crime through existing laws in the Maldives, unlike certain other neighbouring countries.

The seminar, which is conducted in cooperation with the National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT) and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), was also attended today by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, according to local media.

Back in September the Maldives Police Service announced the formation of a special Cyber Policing Department to look into cyber crime.

Police stated at the time that three units will be operating under the new department, including the  cyber crime investigation unit, cyber forensics unit and cyber security unit.

Police media official Sub-inspector Hassan Haneef added at the time that the formation of new department would help ease the current difficulties in investigating cyber crimes and will allow police to file more cases at the Prosecutor General’s office.

Cyber crimes were previously investigated by a small unit operating under fraud and financial department.


Maldives and Sri Lanka to cooperate over regional cyber crime concerns

Maldivian and Sri Lankan authorities are looking to establish a collaborative mechanism with which to try and combat cyber crime committed across the South Asia region, according to local media reports.

Haveeru yesterday quoted an unnamed senior Sri Lankan police official as claiming that the country’s law enforcement agencies were looking to work with counterparts in the Maldives to investigate cyber crimes such as online financial scams that have defrauded internet users around the world.

According to the report, several Maldivian nationals working from Sri Lanka are suspected of having involvement in organised cyber crime as part of a larger regional network of criminals.

In attempts to try and combat multinational networks such as these, plans are reportedly under-way to send Sri Lankan police to the Maldives as part of a joint investigation into prominent cyber crime groups.

According to Haveeru, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has already held several meetings with his Sri Lankan counterparts over the extent of the Maldives’ work in combating hacking, online financial scams and identity theft in the country.


Police strategy launch focused on challenges of expansion and “emerging” crimes

Despite uncertainty over funding allocated by the 2011 budget, the Maldives Police Service has today unveiled commitments to try and expand its services among a wider number of islands in the Maldives, whilst also prioritising the prevention of “emerging” threats like cyber crime and human trafficking.

The commitments were announced as part of a new strategic plan outlining key focus areas for police between 2011 and 2013. These focuses include aims to extend measures on the prevention of cyber crime, human trafficking, “extremist ideologies” and piracy, along with more day to day crimes such as theft, violence and drug abuse.

Yoonus Sobah, head of the Bureau of Criminal Records and a member of the Police Service’s strategic development department, told Minivan News that any new commitments outlined for policing the nation were tied, and perhaps limited, to the 2011 state budget that had just been passed yesterday.

Saboh said that the force had not therefore outlined any additional projects in the “short run”, such as new island-based police stations or other service extensions.

“Our goal is to have our services increased across the islands, though this has to be linked to the budget,” he said. “Initially, this means there will be no new police stations constructed, though there are five additional structures in development across a number of islands that were already planned.”

According to Sobah, as part of strategy to try and improve delivery of policing across the country, the service is moving ahead with “decentralisation plans” to try and create a strong presence across the country’s capital islands. Such a focus is expected to allow for cases that were previously transferred to Male’ to be examined on a more local regional basis instead, according to the Police Service spokesperson.

On a wider national scale, Sobah said that the new police strategy would aim to increasingly deal with “emerging” larger-scale crimes such as financial misconduct, people smuggling and even maritime protection in conjunction with groups like the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).
“Alongside our commitments to street crime, we will try and prioritise on bigger cases that we are not as experienced in solving, such as cyber crime,” he said.

Sobah added that so called larger or “emerging” crimes also involved potential external threats such as terrorism, piracy and financial crime.

Speaking today during the unveiling of the new three year police strategy at the Iskandhar Koshi bulding, Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh highlighted the importance of serving the people with loyalty and integrity and how the new strategic plan could help met these aims.

“The purpose of the police is to enforce the law and maintain a peaceful environment in the society,” said Faseeh. “This strategic plan was established after conducting research with the practical assistance of the Scottish police.”

In addressing the challenge of “emerging” criminal activity in the Maldives such as cyber crimes, the commissioner said he believed progress was already being made.

”The police have achieved satisfying progress in the last three years when we worked under the recent strategic plan,” he added.

Home minister Afeef claimed that although the last police strategic plan was not fully successful in meeting its aims, police achieved satisfying results nonetheless.

”Other institutions related to the work of the police should also cooperate more to achieve their best,” said Afeef. ”Police are ready to take the risk, although they have to deal with the most violent criminals in the country.”

He also appealed for witnesses at crime scenes to be more cooperative with the police when providing information.