Businessman scammed in online shopping
Posted on August 11, 2012, Saturday
SIBU: A Mauritius businessman lost more than RM30,000 to an Internet cheat after paying for a container of premium cooking oil ordered from a phantom company.
He claimed yesterday the company had a trading address in Sibu, and operated a website to promote the product with attractive pricing online.
The company even claimed to have a factory here, he said, working out his total losses at US$11,050.
“I ordered a container of premium cooking oil costing US$9,000 online after being impressed with the special pricing and samples sent. This brand is in very high demand in my country.
“Little did I know that this was just part of an Internet scam,” the businessman said, asking not to be named.
He searched for the company’s details in the District Office here, but was told there was no such company.
The company had asked for 40 per cent payment upfront, followed by a series of delays that drove him to make out another three separate payments to expedite the shipment.
Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (MDTCC) confirmed that the victim lodged a report with them yesterday, adding that this was the third case this year of scam related to online shopping.
The ministry’s Sibu branch chief Balraj Singh said their initial investigation showed the company was non-existent.
“We’ve even screened through our list of retailers and wholesalers supplying cooking oil, but there is no company under that name. In fact, even the address on the documents was fictitious so we could not locate the company. We also could not trace the company online,” he said.
Relating the incident at the ministry office earlier, the businessman revealed that he communicated entirely with one known as ‘Zulkamain’ from the said company.
Initially, he did not suspect anything, thinking the ‘company’ was well established as ‘Zulkamain’ spoke fluent English.
He wired his first payment of US$3,600 (about RM11,000) on July 12.
“The company claimed that they had wrongly computed the freight charges and I was asked to make another payment of about RM8,000 for the adjustment in freight cost.
“Still not enough, they claimed that the ship was now in Dubai and I would be required to make another payment of US$2,700 (about RM8,400) to load the goods to another vessel, heading straight to Mauritius.
“Fearing further delay, I complied with their request and did a telegraphic transfer of the sum requested on July 27,” he related.
The businessman then insisted the company dispatch the original documents, but was asked to make a payment of RM6,290 which he did on Aug 2.
He felt suspicious when after several payments, his goods were nowhere in sight, so decided to make a trip here and again communicated with ‘Zulkamain’.
Reaching Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and hastily making a trip here on Wednesday, he appeared to be still suffering from jet lag.
“When I reached Sibu, ‘Zulkamain’ agreed to meet me to iron out the problems at the company’s address. To my surprise, the taxi driver pointed out that the address was non-existent.
“I was shocked and dumbfounded as a substantial amount of money had been paid for the goods I never received,” he moaned.
The trading address was at No. 22, Jalan Setia Jaya along Howe Road, 93200 Kuching.
Later attempts to contact ‘Zulkamain’ failed as calls went answered. The banking document stated the company was in Johor Baharu.
Realising that he had been hoodwinked, he decided to take the case to the ministry.
Balraj said: “We also called up the number but nobody picked up the call. Not only the address did not exist, the postal code was incorrect.”
Last February, the ministry uncovered two Internet scams using fictitious websites and fake business addresses, believed to be operated by a foreign syndicate.
Both cases exhibited a similar modus operandi where both complainants were asked to bank in money into a local bank account holder, but the culprit absconded with the money.
He advised prospective buyers shopping online to vet the background of the company.
“They should take into consideration things such as warranty and not be taken in by rock bottom prices.”
Established companies or genuine businesses would provide buyers proper documentation that show a transaction had been completed, Balraj said.