MY smartphone rang. An automated voice said: “You have made a RM1,700 purchase in Poh Kong using your Bank ‘X’ Platinum card at 12.15pm. If you have not made the purchase, please press nine.”
My heart sank. I definitely did not make any purchase on that day. And definitely not at Poh Kong. It looked like I might be a victim of credit card fraud.
I pressed “nine”.
“This is Bank ‘X’ customer service. How can I help you?” asked a man.
“Are you sure you are from Bank ‘X’?” I asked, feeling suspicious.
“Yes, I am from Bank ‘X’,” he said, sounding like someone working in Low Yat Plaza.
“I just received an automated call from Bank ‘X’ saying that I had purchased jewellery from Poh Kong. I did not make any purchase today,” I said.
“Can you give me your IC number. I will check for you,” he said.
I gave him my IC number and waited for two minutes.
He said I had a card registered on Oct 10, 2017, at Cheras Leisure Mall. The address was in Sri Pelangi Condominium in Cheras and the outstanding balance was RM8,155.23.
“I don’t own that credit card! How do I settle this matter?” I asked.
“Bank ‘X’ can’t process your complaint. You have to complain to Bank Negara,” he said.
“How do I contact Bank Negara?” I asked.
“Wait, I’ll get you the number,” he said.
“I’ve got to go. I am busy right now,” I said, as I had a One Man’s Meat deadline to meet last Friday.
“You have to settle it now,” he said.
“I don’t have time. I’ll settle it with Bank Negara later,” I said.
I hung up.
My mind was clouded by the RM8,155.23 debt. And I was thinking how easy it was for someone to apply for a credit card using my personal details. And I was wondering how many credit cards were out there under my name which I am not aware of.
To check whether it was a con, I called the 03 number from which I received a call. And the receiver said “wrong number”.
Getting suspicious, I called Bank ‘X’ to ask if I had a credit card with them. A Bank ‘X’ officer said no.
That was the end of the story, though I felt unsatisfied that the caller did not manage to finish his con.
The next day, my smartphone rang. An automated voice said: “You have three months outstanding with Bank ‘Y’. If you have not made payment, press nine.”
I pressed “nine”.
The Bank ‘Y’ “officer”, who said he was Arif bin Ariffin, asked me for my name and identity card number. I told him my name as Terence Chin (he’s my best friend since college) and I gave a fake identity card.
“Wait, I’ll check,” he said.
Then he told me that I had a RM40,000 personal loan which was approved on Aug 21, 2017. It was processed in Alor Setar.
Gotcha, I thought.
“Now I will connect this call to IPK (police contingent headquarters) Kedah so that you can make a police report,” said Arif, who also sounded like someone working in Low Yat Plaza.
“Please wait for a while, your call will be connected to IPK Kedah,” said an automated voice.
“Sarjan Rahim bin Abdullah” from IPK Kedah answered. I told him that Bank ‘Y’ told me that my data got hacked.
He asked for personal information – my full name, identity card, bank account number and address.
At this stage I felt dumb talking to him. There was nothing sophisticated about his con.
The “sergeant” got angry with me as I could not give him the answers he needed so that he could con me.
“Do you know that you have been connected to IPK? Please cooperate,” said the sergeant, who must have been having a bad day at work.
“Are you making a false report? I will trace your IC and get my officers to arrest you for wasting my time. Stupid person!”
He slammed the phone down.
I called MCA Public Service and Complaints Department head Datuk Seri Michael Chong to get an insight into how the con worked.
Chong said the conman will eventually ask me to give “Bank Negara” my money so that it can be protected from the identity thief. The conman will use my Internet banking information to get my money in my bank.
“Despite the many press conferences that I have given, people still get conned,” he said. “I asked the victim, ‘You never heard of such a scam? And they say, ‘I heard about it but I was frightened and the call felt real’.”
Chong said there were more such cases – some amounting to millions of ringgit – than he could count. The best thing, he said, was just to be alert.
The smartphone rang yesterday. I ignored the unknown number.