Wise up to the snares of scammers
Posted on May 13, 2012, Sunday
THERE are probably as many people who cheat as those who get cheated everyday.
Some losses are small but some are huge, especially when scams are involved.
Most confidence tricks can be exposed and avoided with presence of mind and reasoning. This is what makes falling easy victim to con artists regrettable – and quite unnecessary.
Repeated warnings to beware of strangers bearing gifts often fall on deaf ears. Con men take advantage of this non chalance and profit by it.
Research shows con men or women exploit human traits such as greed, dishonesty (and honesty), vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility and naïveté. Victims come from all backgrounds.
In Malaysia, a lot of money is lost to scammers and senior citizens are a favourite target.
Early this year in Miri, an 80-year-old grandmother was cheated of RM50,000 in cash and jewellery by three foreign women in a ‘get rid of bad omen’ scam.
The octogenarian was duped into believing by one of the women posing as a bomoh that her youngest child would be stricken by ill luck unless she came up with jewellery and RM5,000 for the bogus spiritual healer to conduct a ritual.
The elderly woman was also instructed to keep mum and not to remove the jewellery and cash from a package before three days.
She complied, and after the grace period, opened the packet, only to discover mineral water bottles wrapped in newspaper, and also realise, with great anguish, that she had been conned.
Hers is just one among the many instances where elderly folks had been taken for an expensive ride by scammers.
Younger people are not spared either. In another incident, a housewife was conned by a get-rich-quick syndicate that promised her winnings of RM1 million through a set of fail-safe four-digit numbers. She ended up RM244,708 poorer.
A gay casonova in Kuala Lumpur was also believed to have conned about 200 young men of money and valuables after having sex with them following Facebook hookups.
What’s even worse is that apart from ripping off his victims, the con man was reportedly HIV positive and had potentially infected a number of those he had cheated.
The case was exposed after one of the victims posted a photo of the man on Facebook and other victims recognised him.
Police have also warned Internet users to be wary of cyber cheats who sell online. These ‘virtual’ cheats have been known to use dubious modus operandi to convince users to buy goods online and cause them to lose heavily to phoney business syndicates.
Crime syndicates have even resorted to using cyberspace relationships they have built through emails and social network sites to commit crime.
One well-documented case involved a male lecturer who fell victim to a con ring’s elaborate scheme after being deceived into forming a strong online relationship with a British woman who had asked him to meet her at KLIA during a holiday trip to Malaysia.
When the day came, the lecturer went to the airport but his Internet friend was nowhere to be found. Instead, he received call supposedly from a Royal Customs and Excise Department officer, informing him the British woman had been detained at KLIA for not declaring a huge sum of money.
The lecturer was told everything would be fine if he transferred a certain sum into a particular bank account, after which, he could meet his friend at the Sultan Ismail Airport in Senai, Johor Bharu. The victim did as he was told but soon discovered he was only chasing a phantom and had burnt a RM25,500 hole in his pocket for all his good intentions.
Statistically, since 2007, housewives and businessmen have fallen victims to a variety of frauds, involving the loss of some RM930,000.
Experts have come up with ways to avoid scams. These include taking the time to know what you are getting into; always thinking and asking questions; treating your finances as very personal and constantly keeping track of them, being familiar with fraud cases and wary of people who appear ‘so very nice’.
A con artist will try everything to finagle a deal and nothing makes the fraudster happier than an unthinking target.
Be smart and approach with great caution when offered a deal that appears too good to be true. That’s the golden rule.