The scourge of modern day scams


Always stay alert when you go online to shop, as scams are very common these days. — Bernama infographics

TEN years ago, a company by the name of Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd was found guilty of money laundering and illegal deposit-taking in the Malaysian High Court. The company was well known for its highly aggressive direct-selling tactics, baiting a large number of people into its scheme, which had promised high investment returns.

Bank Negara Malaysia had issued a statement, which said that more than 8,000 customers had paid for more than 4,000kg of gold; and between the three companies and eight individuals involved, they were found to have collected around a total of RM7 billion in deposits, had laundered RM4.5 billion elsewhere and were eventually fined a total of RM450 million.

An item of news dated Sept 30, 2020 in The Borneo Post had mentioned that a total of 232 plaintiffs from Sarawak had managed to claim back special damages of RM37.3 million from Genneva Malaysia. The eight individuals linked to the company were later sentenced to between three and nine years’ jail for money laundering and illegal deposit-taking; among them were five Malaysian ‘Datuks’.

I had used that one specific example as it was (and still is) the largest scam in the past few decades that had involved the most number of Malaysians. Some of the victims were known to me personally.

We continue to read of individuals scammed and conned victims on a daily basis in our newspapers, on the radio and television as well as on social media, whereby someone is ‘illegally robbed’ of his or her cash, valuables and assets by means both simple and complicated. It is tragic to see that there is in real life ‘a sucker born every minute’, and that if something is too good to be true, it usually is.

J. Wills perhaps has the best description as to what entails a fraud: “Fraud, in my opinion, is a term that should be reserved for something dishonest and morally wrong, and much mischief is, I think, done, as well as much unnecessary pain inflicted, by its use where ‘illegality’ and ‘illegal’ are the really appropriate expressions.”

In simple words, any act that deprives one of what is rightfully his by dubious means and unethical dishonest methods.

ScamWatch, a public watchdog commission in Australia, has published its guideline to the ‘Ten Most Popular Types of Scam’, which is rather comprehensive and I would like to quote from; they are as follows:

  1. Recent scam activity – scammers use events and other recent news to take advantage, e.g. the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine;
  2. Stealing your personal information – personal details obtained from all sources in order to use your credit card or open a bank account;
  3. Buying or selling – through popular online shopping sites preying on both businesses and customers – not all transactions are legitimate or authentic;
  4. Dating and romance – usually on dating sites, social media and other apps, pretending to be prospective companions, to provide gifts and money;
  5. Fake charities – impersonating genuine charities asking for donations or claiming to be collecting for recent natural disasters or other events;
  6. Investments – they have invented all sorts of ‘fast ways to make money’ including lucrative land for sale overseas and Swiss gold bullion;
  7. Jobs and employment – usually lucrative high-paying jobs overseas for which you are required to make a down payment, or guaranteed money-making schemes too many to detail here;
  8. Threats and extortion – threaten your life or a family member or by stealing personal details, information and ‘blackmailing’ you;
  9. Unexpected money – scammers will invent all sorts of convincing and seemingly legitimate reasons to give you false hope about offers of money. There are no real get-rich-quick schemes, do not believe it!
  10. Unexpected winnings – these scams often tell you that you have won something big and you have to make some form of payment in order to receive the winnings. They have many different novel approaches and methods, so just never let them in to begin with.

Beware of false profiles, fake names and various online scams when you go on the Internet. — Bernama infographics

Most of the time you can avoid even coming into contact with these scammers and con artistes by simply not answering ‘unknown’ phone calls; not clicking on any unknown but interesting-looking website on social media, and even not opening any attachment sent to you by WhatsApp, email or other social media forum.

Stay safe by not being too curious – scammers are excellent at attracting your attention and will use all sorts of tricks to make you pause, click and read or watch.

Hardly a day goes by without news of someone being conned of their life’s savings – even losses of lives have been reported. In recent days, I quote the following headlines from our local and national newspapers of some of the more common scams as follows:

‘Teacher scammed out of RM76,000 for TnGo arrears’; ‘Woman loses RM224,000 to insurance fraud syndicate’; ‘Man dies after being cheated of RM156,000’; and, ‘Teacher loses RM233,000 of husband’s pension savings to scammers’.

There are ways to prevent such con artists from ever ‘doing the nasty’ on you and your family.

Most of the time the victims are easily swayed by either the sweet talk or the pleasant demeanour of the scammer; or they have name-dropped or used fraudulent ‘past cases’ or references to con them into believing what they are trying to sell in order to gain the trust and confidence of the victim.

What one needs to do is never to make a hasty decision on the spot. Delay and refrain from taking any action until you have had time to background check on what the scammer has told you – be it his references, past cases, names that he had dropped, etc.

Nowadays with the help of the Internet and Google, one can also do exhaustive checks online.

If you are not so well versed or net-savvy, use the old-fashioned way – ask your family members and close friends about it.

The most important word is VERIFY!

This is specially so for that biggest scam of all – online shopping scams, which today accounts for at least 37 per cent of all scams (as reported to the ‘Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker of the USA’).

Nearly 75 per cent of the people who reported online scams also said that they lost money. There are five key tips on how you can avoid online shopping scams:

  1. Research unfamiliar brands or websites – search for the company’s name and products on Google, look for reviews on their products and services;
  2. Look for misspellings in the URL – most of the time scammers will try to make their domain name as close and near as possible to a popular or well-known product, but with slightly misspelled words of letters;
  3. Search for an address and a phone number – make sure that both are genuine and if there’s no indication of a brick-and-mortar address or a dubious one or someplace you can’t even find on Google map, more likely it is a fake business;
  4. Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card – credit cards aren’t tied directly to your bank account and offer greater fraud protection;
  5. Look for delivery, exchange, refund and return policies – make sure they are fully detailed and if these are vague or non-existent, they are usually fake businesses.

Members of the public can now call the National Scam Response Centre (NSRC) at 997 to report online financial scams. It is a joint effort between the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NFCC), Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Bank Negara Malaysia, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as well as financial institutions and the telecommunications industry.

The NSRC focuses on online financial scams including phishing scams, Macau scams, malware attack scams, package delivery or parcel scams and love scams.

It was also announced that the NSRC or agencies under NSRC or banks will NEVER call you to ask for banking details such as PIN, TAC and OTP!

It is your duty to make the necessary checks to verify the facts when contacted by any parties.

However, you may call these agencies for any help and assistance – note down these essential numbers:

NSRC: 997
NFCC: 03-8861 3830
Police: 03-2610 1222
Bank Negara Malaysia: 1-300-88-5465

Stay safe when going online, only click on trusted and known links and websites.

Verify everything you need to buy online or ask someone who may know better. Do not disclose your private information to unknown parties.

Take swift action if you feel you may have been conned.