In her 30's and single, she has had her fair-share of romantic meet-ups and relationships, which sadly were short-lived. Being out there and through her past experiences, she was well aware of stories of online scammers romancing and duping women in Malaysia, usually Nigerian or African men pretending to be white men who then get into business or legal hassles in Malaysia.
But she never thought she herself would fall for such trickery. Image via BBC File photo of an unrelated woman, used for illustration purposes only. Until she met an attractive Caucasian man on OKCupid, a premier online dating site, claiming to be someone called 'Derry Johnstone'.
One of the photos the guy claiming to be 'Derry' used on his OKCupid profile. The story of how she met 'Derry Johnstone' The woman, who has asked for anonymity, published a lengthy blog post earlier in May , detailing her encounter with Derry Johnstone on OKCupid, who was using the handle dstoneage for his OKCupid profile.
After looking at the photos uploaded on his profile, she found him attractive and decided to message him. He soon messaged her back and they hit it off. It was during their initial conversation that he introduced himself as Derry. According to her blog post, he claimed to be mixed Scottish-Serbian and had been working in KL for the past 4 months, buying and selling antiques from Malaysia to US and UK and intending to register a company in Malaysia.
They soon exchanged their mobile numbers and proceeded to chat on WhatsApp and eventually starting speaking over call. She claims "he had a sexy voice and a strong Australian accent, and he explained that it's because he grew up in Australia. All this while, Derry kept sharing different photos of himself with her, which actually made it all very convincing, she claims. Screenshot of Derry's WhatsApp profile photo.
Possible warning signs Early on in the chat, Derry changed his contact number, claiming that he had lost his phone. While it did occur to her that changing one's contact number early in the conversation after zeroing on in the target does sound like something a scam artist would do, she ignored it. Another warning sign is when she asked him to Skype, he refused, claiming that he had never used it before and was busy. After which, she didn't push for it.
However, it did create doubt on her mind that if a person she met online refuses to video chat with her, he might not be the person behind the photos, yet she ignored her feelings of doubt.
As their conversation grew, Derry told her that he will be travelling to Miri, a coastal city in northeastern Sarawak, to buy antiques. While he intended to be in Miri only for a few days, he later claimed his stay got extended longer than he had planned as he found more antiques to buy.
He sent a few photos of the items he bought: Image via Antiques Shipping Romance Scam in Malaysia How Derry then went on to gain the woman's trust According to the blog post, Derry claimed to her that he was trying to buy an antique vase from a lady in Miri but because he was not familiar with the local language, he couldn't buy it. So the woman suggested that she can speak to the lady next time Derry goes to meet with her. The next day, when he was purportedly at the shop, he asked her to help talk over the phone to a Malay female shop owner to haggle the price of the vase, which was being sold at RM12, She managed to convince the lady to lower the price.
This convinced her further he was doing legitimate business. All through this while, Derry, according to the woman, acted unlike a typical romance scam artist who reveals his undying love for the woman early on. Instead, Derry played it cool, telling her interesting and funny stories of his stay in Malaysia. He shared some of the culture shocks he experienced while travelling to a village to buy antiques and his experience of learning to eat with his hands like the locals.
He even told her how he met two women here who he got close to but it didn't work out as one of the women wanted him to convert to Islam, which he refused because he's a Christian, and another turned out to be a lady boy which he could not recognize because he was a foreigner, claims the blog post written by the woman. In the blog post she confesses that the way he told the stories, it sounded so sincere that she felt sorry for him.
In short, Derry did everything, she claims, what a real guy, who's actually interested in someone, would do. Like, tell them how much he appreciates having them around, how great it would be to share little joys of life, etc. Subtle ways of putting the idea, as she claims in the blog post, in her head that he needed a woman in his life and that she could be that one special person.
Eventually, he started addressing her with adjectives such as "dear" and "darling". While she doesn't prefer guys calling her those things, she let him do so because "I felt connected with him. To lure her in, Derry sent her photos of the car he intended to rent. It was a very flashy looking BMW convertible: Image via Antiques Shipping Romance Scam in Malaysia It was all part of his scheme to convince her that he was a rich guy. He included a forwarded email from the supposed car rental dealer, which, she would later find, to be non-existent.
Then came the lead up to the money scam After Derry was done luring her with his act of making himself appear a rich man, on the days leading up to the trap to get her money, he told her that he was almost done buying all the antiques he needed and was now looking for a licensed person to ship the antiques. Reason being that he had to do it through another person because he had not yet registered his business. According to the claims made in the blog post, he claimed to her to have tried talking to a few shipment dealers, but the deal did not go through due the high price which he did not want to pay.
During this time, he told her that he had overstayed in Miri and had run out of clean clothes. He also told her that he was getting tired of being there and just wanted to come back to KL and meet her. And he did it with the help of several actors and good background sound effects to make his story convincing, she claims in the blog post, adding that she would have never believed a romance scammer would go through that extent to make his story believable, until that day!
He claimed to plan to fly back from Miri to KL the same day after doing his shipment of the antiques he bought and asked her to pick him up from KL Sentral around 7pm. He then left for the shipping company in the morning to deal with his shipment.
Image via Antiques Shipping Romance Scam in Malaysia However, he later called to say he was having problems as the lady in charge required him to pay RM36, but he only had RM10, left on him. He claimed to her that he told the lady he would pay the RM10, now and then transfer the rest when he was in KL.
But the lady refused, saying minimum RM16, was needed upfront. The woman then helped Derry by trying to speak to the lady, who identified herself as Siti Aisyah. During the call, Siti was adamant that she needed an additional RM, and wanted it banked into her company driver's account, under name of Abdan bin Munir with Maybank account no.: Image via Antiques Shipping Romance Scam in Malaysia Derry begged her to help otherwise he would miss his flight and he had no more money to stay overnight.
He claimed he was very tired staying in Miri and he wanted to meet her badly. He told her that he had plenty of cash in his room in KL and could pay her back straight away. At this point, while the suspicion of scam grew even more on her, she, feeling sorry for him for his condition, eventually caved in and banked in RM4, of the RM6, that he had claimed he needed. She hoped that that would be the end of it, but it wasn't. More excuses to get more money out of her Later that day, Derry called and said he had further problems as he met a man named Kaiser who he thought was a customer at the shipping company, so Derry told this man he only paid RM10, plus the smaller sum she had backed in.
The story became that Kaiser was actually Siti's business partner who was angry that Siti agreed to accept only less than half the full payment of RM36, Kaiser then took Derry's passport under pretense of wanting to photocopy it, but did not come back with it.
Derry called her again and told her he now was being forced by Kaiser to make the full payment of RM36, or else he would not get back his passport, but he had no more money. He also gave her Kaiser's number to try and talk to him, which she did but he refused to negotiate, according to the blog post. When she called him later, she claims she heard background noises as if he was in a car.
While it seemed like a stressful situation and he had missed his flight, he showed concern for her, asking if she had had her dinner. Although he did not directly ask her for money, she claims she made the next mistake of deciding to help him further as she felt even more sorry for him. So she contacted her bank and learned that she could increase her daily transaction limit to RM10, However, she only transferred RM3, as she was not willing to give more than one month of her salary.
Later that evening, Derry told her that he had pawned the watch and paid Kaiser RM9, However, he claimed that he still did not get his passport from Kaiser as there was still a large outstanding balance to be paid. The next day, she tried to test Derry by saying she had no more money and lied to him, saying a friend of hers can help pay but the friend wanted to see evidence such as emails to clients, photo of the receipt he got for pawning the watch, shipping documents, etc.
She claims after which Derry got angry and said she was insulting him. He tried to make her feel guilty for not trusting him. For her, this was another big sign that he was lying as he reacted in anger rather than try to send some evidence. Later in the afternoon, he claimed that he managed to get RM7, from his clients and just needs another RM3, from her.
However, she refused, claiming she had no more money. He got angry again and claimed he was doing to meet the guy and fight for his passport if needed to, but she still refused. She again tried to test him through SMS, claiming that since he had no WiFi access, all her friend wanted the password to Derry's email address to verify what work he was doing, only after which her friend would be willing to pay.
In response, Derry got angry again. When he picked up, she heard dramatic background noises like he was fighting with Kaiser to get the passport back. After that the line went dead and his number has been unreachable since. However, she still sees his profile as active on OKCupid, where they met. But Derry Johnstone does not answer her messages now. Image via Antiques Shipping Romance Scam in Malaysia The hurdles she faces now While she has made a police report and has also reported to Maybank, as expected the system is slow to act.
A digital scan of the police report is with SAYS. She was called on 5 May, several days after the incident, to provide a statement. However, the gap during the incident day and statement effectively enables the criminals to change their contacts, take out the money, close the account and become untraceable.
In the meantime, Maybank says it cannot do anything to transfer the money back to her, even if she has records of her transfers.
She claims they won't even provide the details of the account holder Abdan bin Munir, unless asked by the police. However, she hopes that her story will help others be aware of how sophisticated these scammers have become. In part 2 of this two-part series, read how she is trying to unmask her scammer: