Scamsters are devising new tricks to defraud unsuspecting Malaysians, and news surrounding such scams are all over the media. Yet, many among us continue to fall victim to online frauds, job offer scams or even ‘internet love scams’ that may cause financial losses and stress.
A 2016 Telenor Group study found that Malaysia is the most vulnerable country to internet scams in the region.
Fraudsters and scamsters are known to cash in on our vulnerabilities like fear, greed, loneliness, ignorance and unemployment and swindle us of our savings. The key to protecting ourselves lies in increased awareness and common sense (which is not very common!).
Read on as we discuss 6 common scams in Malaysia that you should be aware of.
1. The fake cop or bank official scam
Intimidation is a classic trick used by scamsters to fool innocent people. There have been many examples in Malaysia where people have received calls from fake police officers or bank officials to cheat them out of their money.
According to a report, scammers posing as fake cops used Voice Over Internet Protocol to call a retired person in Seapark from his son’s mobile number and said they have nabbed the boy in a narcotics case. In order to ‘secure a bail’ for the son, the scammers demanded RM200,000. The retired man, obviously worried, dropped off RM100,000 out of his life’s savings at a designated place, only to realise later that he was duped and his son was not even remotely involved in any drugs case.
Another report stated that a fake bank official contacted a female interior designer in Kuala Lumpur and inquired whether she had used a credit card to make a jewellery purchase. When the lady claimed ignorance, the impersonator said that it may have been a case of identity theft, and gave her a fake ‘Bank Negara’ number to contact. Upon calling that number, another impersonator, claiming to be a BNM official, asked the designer to transfer RM7,000 as part of a ‘security check’. The victim ended up transferring RM3,000, later realising that she had been conned.
Another elderly man in Gurun lost RM95,000 when fraudsters posing as bank officials trapped him to pay up ‘arrears on a credit card’ that he never owned!
The bottom line being — these scammers are getting the better of innocent people. Always remember, no police officer can intimidate you in the name of ‘bail money’, which is actually decided by a court.
Similarly, be very cautious when you receive a call from ‘a bank officer’ or ‘BNM officer’. Do not transfer any money or divulge critical security information like debit card/credit card CVV number or PIN over the phone, come what may! Before getting scared and working under pressure, walk the extra mile to cross verify the credibility of the complaint. Not to forget the need to inform police or bank officials if you ever receive such calls.
Must read: 7 Simple Tips To Prevent Credit Card Fraud
2. ‘Work From Home’ scams
The same Telenor study mentioned earlier also revealed that the most common internet scam defrauding Malaysian respondents was the so-called ‘work from home’ scheme. According to which unsuspecting internet users were lured with ‘too-good-to-be-true’ job offers, and consequently cheated to make an ‘admin fee’ payment in order to share further details of the job or to ‘secure the placement’.
Many of us will find it extremely odd that a credible professional organisation should ask for an upfront payment to reveal additional details about an opening, but many people actually fell for this trap.
Our suggestion: Always check the credibility of a job listing, and never even consider job offers sent privately on Facebook, WhatsApp or WeChat. And if anyone seeks advance payment related to an offer, consider it a scam and walk away! Also, if an offer sounds ‘too good to be true’, like ‘earn RM1000 every week sitting at home’ or ‘no prior experience required to earn RM400 a day’, it’s highly likely to be a trap.
3. EPF scams
In a statement on June 15, 2017, the Employees Provident Fund cautioned its members not to fall for fake SMSes or WhatsApp messages or other messages received on social media sites like Facebook claiming their EPF accounts will be blocked if they did not contact a given phone number.
“Official messages from the EPF will display a five-digit shortcode as sender identification (ID), and the messages will not be sent to members from a personal mobile number,” the pension fund said. EPF also asked its members to call the EPF Contact Management Centre at 03-89226000 or visit any of their counters in the country if they needed any clarification.
In July 2017, reacting to a Star report, the EPF reminded its members not to collude with scamsters to withdraw their money earlier. The newspaper reported that scammers in Malaysia were luring cash-strapped EPF members through social media to withdraw their retirement savings, and then charging 30% to 60% in commission of the withdrawn amount.
EPF deputy CEO (operations) Mohd Naim Daruwish said they have a special mechanism in place to detect fraudulent withdrawals. The news report also stated that EPF recorded 152 cases of fraudulent withdrawals in 2016, out of which most withdrawals were made for housing purposes.
4. ‘Internet love’ scams
In February this year, Singapore and Malaysian police busted a cross-border internet love scam syndicate believed to have cheated numerous victims in both countries of more than RM708,000.
The con men using fake profiles befriended the victims online through Facebook, Instagram or Tinder, and consequently duped them of their money or used them as money mules.
One 70-year-old female victim lost S$8,000 (RM23,616) and nearly became a money mule after she befriended a stranger on Facebook, as per this report.
In fact, cases of internet love scams have been widely reported in both Malaysia and Singapore in the recent years. The obvious suggestion to safeguard yourself is to remain extremely alert while accepting friend requests from strangers on Facebook (and interacting with strangers on other social media websites), and never to fall for emotional trappings to pay money.
5. Lottery and lucky draw scams
A female tuition teacher in Miri was informed by a scamster (who posed as a friend) that she had won a jackpot worth RM96,000, but to claim the prize she must travel to Hong Kong. When the victim expressed her inability to do so, the scamster asked her to transfer some money in order to arrange for the prize money to be sent to Malaysia. In total the victim ended up transferring RM159,000, more than the jackpot itself, as she was promised that the extra money was to be used as a refundable security deposit, the Borneo Post reported.
The Star reported that a 70-year-old Batu Pahat man was cheated of RM120,000 by two scamsters who sought his help to claim a lottery prize, and promised the victim would be given 5% to 10% of the lottery amount if he agreed to help them get the money.
Our simple suggestion, never fall for such mischievous lottery scams by believing strangers.
6. Travel deal scams
There have been numerous reports in the past, like this one, where victims were approached by fake travel agents and told they have won ‘free holiday packages’. But the victims were later informed that they needed to transfer some amount in order to claim the free trip.
In fact, last week AirAsia came up with a statement saying a ‘promotion’ giving away flight vouchers ‘worth $500’ is actually a scam.
And that’s not all. A Malaysian Digest report based on police statistics from 2012 to 2017 stated that “296 cases of fraud involving umrah (minor haj) and ziarah (visit) were prosecuted under the Penal Code with an estimated loss of RM11.8 million recorded”.
So never fall for such ‘incredible travel deals’ and always reach out to credible travel websites and agencies (recognised by MATTA) when you’re planning your vacations.
Related: 6 Smart Tips to Holiday Debt-Free!
Stay cautious, and spread the awareness
In conclusion, we would re-emphasize on the fact that you must remain extremely careful and cautious when dealing with strangers (online, on call or in person) and think a thousand times over before making any financial transactions. These were just 6 examples, but there are many other scams too that you need to be wary of — like fancy gadget scams targeting youngsters, personal loan scams, etc.
Also, try and inform your family members, colleagues and friends regarding these scams and spread the awareness.
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