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Malaysian cops have busted an alleged text message spam scam ring thought to have fleeced locals for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The group - a Malaysian and 25 foreigners aged between 16 and 41 - are suspected of raking in RM6.4m ($1.9m) between 2006 and April 2010 using fictitious lottery winnings as a bait for an advanced fee fraud, the Star Malaysia reports.

Federal Commercial Crimes Investigations Department (CCID) boss Datuk Koh Hong Sun told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the group is actually part of an even larger SMS scam syndicate busted last year in Malaysia's Tawau province. Police are hunting a further two suspects who escaped last week's dragnet, during which police seized four laptops, 73 mobiles, 41 accounting ledgers, ATM and credit cards and RM6,000 ($1,800) in cash.

Investigators reckon the laptops were used to distribute the SMS messages that formed the central part of the scam. Would-be marks were told they had won prizes from major corporations such as Petronas, Shell and Maxis. The messages said that victims needed to make payments into local bank accounts before they would be able to collect their supposed winnings, which never materialised. Bank accounts linked to the scam are under investigation.

The suspects are being held on remand for suspected offences under Malaysian computer crime and anti-fraud laws. ®

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