IN my 25 years as a journalist, I have covered many stories involving scams.
Nowadays, scammers are more tech-savvy and skilled in exploiting social media to fleece people of their life savings.
They do not just target senior citizens and those with little formal education, but also professionals including teachers and nurses.
These syndicates have a playbook to exploit people’s emotions, especially fear, greed, anxiety, anticipation and embarrassment, to get them to transfer money into their accounts.
To learn more, I decided to track down a scammer on social media who was posing as a real estate tycoon and philanthropist who happened to be a prominent “Tan Sri”.
The advertisement on social media was meant to share his experience in making a lot of money in the stock market.
Once I clicked on it, it brought me to a WhatsApp community with the “Tan Sri” as the administrator. They even have his picture on the profile.
There would be daily updates in the WhatsApp group not just about the Malaysian market but also overseas’.
Within a few days, the “Tan Sri” started a private chat on the pretext of wanting to know a bit more about me.
He asked me to open a global trading account and recommended some shares to buy in Hong Kong.
He also personalised his messages with advice on staying healthy, spending more time with the family and not panicking when investing in shares.
He even offered me an opportunity to make quick gains by purchasing IPOs, which he said were specially allocated to him as he is a major retail investor and has wide connections with bankers.
The investment amount can vary from RM10,000 to RM100,000.
The “Tan Sri” and his assistant named Licia wanted to know my investment amount and asked me to use his “special online platform” to trade and invest in Hong Kong.
They said all profits from the stocks needed to be tabulated and 5% to10% would be given to charity.
While all this was happening, I decided to track down through a colleague the real Tan Sri who lives up north.
When I contacted him about this scam, he was not surprised as his name had been used for such scams in the past.
He told me that he did not even have a Facebook account and that his last investment in Hong Kong was about 40 years ago.
As for charity work, he said he did not need to use a group of people to do it.
The syndicate had “stolen” the identity of the real Tan Sri who is known for giving scholarships to poor students.
To cut a long story short, I am still in contact with the determined scammers who have resorted to all sort of tactics to get me to invest in their “stocks” for more than a month now.
A few days ago, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi announced that this year, a total of 2,616 scams had been recorded in the state causing losses amounting to RM166.3mil.
Many of the major scams involved non-existent loans and investments, fake job offers, online purchases and people pretending to be public officials or acquaintances of the victims.
The figures could have been far higher if not for the efforts of Johor Commercial Crimes Investigations Department (CCID) chief Asst Comm Amran Md Jusin and his officers.
They have organised regular roadshows and talks to advise people on the new tactics used by these conmen.
My advice to the public, especially senior citizens, is to always be cautious when contacted by people claiming to be courier company agents or enforcement officers.
Also, never click on social media links or advertisements promising huge returns and investment opportunities that are too good to be true.
Use the Semak Mule app or go to https://semakmule.rmp.gov.my to check bank accounts or phone numbers associated with suspicious activities to avoid falling victim to scams.
People need to be vigilant and do their best to safeguard their hard-earned savings as they can be lost in a matter of minutes to these scammers.