Petty theft, particularly purse snatching and pick-pocketing, and residential burglaries are the most common crimes committed against foreigners. Other types of non-violent criminal activity include credit card fraud and automobile theft. In tourist areas such as Bukit Bintang, Petaling Street (Chinatown), Sri Hartamas, and Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, and the main square in Malacca, the police have established small "Tourist Police” stations familiar with helping visitors to Malaysia.
There have been recent incidents of violent crime perpetrated against foreign tourists and local residents by taxi drivers in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Single women travelers are advised to book taxis in downtown shopping areas by phone, rather than to hail taxis on the street, particularly after dark. Upon entering a taxi, confirm there is a license (with photo) on the dashboard or seatback, and that the driver's appearance matches the photo. Taxis are not permitted to stop to pick up additional passengers. Some drivers, particularly in tourist areas, refuse to use the meter despite a law prohibiting the practice.
SPAD, the government body regulating taxis in Malaysia, has an English language hotline for reporting problems: 1-800-88-7732,
Scams: U.S. citizens and businesses continue to be the victims of scams originating in Malaysia. Scammers and confidence artists contact U.S. citizens through the telephone and Internet, including dating websites. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have unexpectedly experienced a medical, legal, financial or other type of “emergency” in Malaysia and who ask the U.S. citizen in the United States to send money quickly to Malaysia. Co-conspirators pose as Malaysian lawyers or medical professionals to verify the story and the supposed urgent need for cash. There have also been cases of U.S. businesses being defrauded by faulty investment scams. We strongly urge U.S. citizens in the United States to be very cautious about sending money to people they have not met in person and who claim to be U.S. citizens in trouble in Malaysia. If you insist on sending money, consider sending an OCS Trust though the U.S. Department of State instead of direct Western Union or MoneyGram. OCS trusts are deposited directly with the nearest U.S. embassy and consulate overseas for pick up by verification of an I.D. If you are scammed and wish to make a formal complaint (in person or via e-mail), the Malaysian Embassy or the nearest Malaysian consulate in the United States will accept the complaint and transmit it to the police for follow-up. Resources on how to identify, protect yourself, and report on business and financial fraud can be found in the Department of State's publication, International Financial Scams. Additional resources can be found at StopFraud.gov (a service of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force) and from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Purse Snatchings: In most purse-snatching incidents, two thieves on a motorcycle speed up from behind a victim, and the passenger on the back snatches a purse, handbag, or cellular phone. Thieves have also conducted snatch-thefts while leaning out of the passenger side of moving vehicles. Increasingly, robbers confront a victim in larger groups. These types of thefts can occur at all hours and often in front of large groups of witnesses, even in upscale neighborhoods frequented by expatriates. Women walking by themselves or with small children are the most common targets, but men walking or jogging alone have also been targeted. Victims have been injured and even killed after falling and being dragged by thieves in cars or on motorcycles. More recently, some thieves carrying knives have slashed and cut the victim in order to shock the victim into immediately releasing valuable items.
To avoid becoming the victim of a purse snatching, be alert and aware of your surroundings. Pedestrians should walk facing traffic and keep a close eye on all vehicular traffic, particularly motorcycles. If possible, try to walk on the sidewalk away from the curb. Avoid poorly lit streets, shortcuts, and narrow alleys, but be aware that attacks may still occur anywhere. Purses or shoulder bags should be closed and tucked under the arm. Do not wrap the strap around your arm or shoulder. People have been injured or killed by being pulled to the ground by their purse straps as the thieves sped off. If your purse or bag is snatched, report the incident as soon as possible to the police.
Smash-and-Grab Robberies: The targets of smash-and-grab robberies are motorists who are stuck in traffic or stopped at a light. The usual scenario is that a pair of thieves on a motorcycle identifies a car with a lone passenger (male or female) and with valuables (e.g., purse, bag) visible. The thieves use a hammer or crowbar to smash the window of the car, grab the bag, and speed off. If the motorist's windows are already open, the motorcyclists simply reach in and take bags off the seat of the car. You can prevent these crimes by keeping valuables like purses and laptops out of sight while driving or removing them from the car (including from the trunk) when parked. GPS monitors should not be left on the windscreen or dashboard.
Credit Card Fraud: While traveling in Malaysia you should closely safeguard your credit card numbers at all times, and use the cards only at reputable establishments. Credit card fraud continues to be a problem in the region, although enhanced technology has reduced reported instances of fraud. Unauthorized charges may not show on a credit card account for several months but can unexpectedly appear in amounts of $5,000 or more. One of the more common methods of carrying out this fraud is for retailers to swipe the credit card under the counter where a machine containing a mobile phone SIM card receives the card's information and transmits it to a criminal organization for reproduction. You should watch retailers closely and any “under the table” transactions should be reported to the local police. In some cases, sophisticated criminal organizations have tapped into data lines emanating from retail establishments. The criminals then steal the credit card information while it is being transmitted to financial institutions. If you must use a credit card in Malaysia, you should check your account information frequently for fraudulent charges. ATM cards are safer as long as the machines where they are used are associated with reputable Malaysian banks.
Don't buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you are encouraging criminal activity if you buy them.
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