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Friday, November 25, 2011

Don’t be a total sucker!

 There is no easy way to make a fast buck other than cheat and there is no such thing as love at first sight. - a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet

MORE than 10 years ago when the Internet and e-mails first became popular, many crooks found them to be the most convenient way of cheating people, especially those living thousands of miles away.

The scams were simple ones that played on the element of pity and the sums asked for were small.

Some of the con-artists would pretend to represent certain well-known charitable organisations soliciting US$10 (about RM31).

Many kind-hearted and gullible people did reply to such e-mails and ended up sending cash by post.

If 1,000 people around the world responded, these crooks would get away with US$10,000 (RM31,000) but chances are they got a lot more.

However, people then wised up to such tricks and these criminals got more sophisticated.

While previously they preyed on people’s generosity, now they have turned to our greed. Greed is what the “winning lottery ticket scam” is based on.

People would get e-mails informing them that they had won a lottery worth millions. They would be convinced into paying some money in order to get hold of the bigger sum.

Of course, playing on greed is the surest way to make a scam work. There have been various versions of this winning lottery scheme and they are so obviously tricks, yet all sorts of people have been cheated.

I know of a doctor and a magistrate who lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit to these crooks, who more often than not originate from Africa or specifically Nigeria.

Apologies to any Nigerian who feels offended by this statement, but even the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has set up many task force teams to tackle and arrest such cyber crooks.

Even 10 years ago, I had found that the NPF had set up a website to handle such complaints.

I even took to e-mailing all suspicious looking e-mails soliciting money or trying to tempt me with money to the NPF, which wrote me a letter of thanks for doing so.

The scams have got even more sophisticated and the crooks started registering e-mail addresses with names of people supposedly related to despots, dictators or deposed leaders from the continent. This was called the inheritance scam.

Their claim is that their father/mother/brother/sister/uncle/friend was that deposed leader and had stashed away millions in a secret account in an off-shore bank and needed to use your account to transfer the money out of that country.

They promised to share the loot and hundreds, if not thousands, have fallen for this trick all over the world.

How people can be so naïve and greedy is beyond comprehension.

Look, there is no such thing as easy money unless it is a trick by a conman to get your money from your wallet.

Just like the black money scam, where these people offer to sell you millions of US dollars for a fraction of the value. The catch was that you needed to buy special chemicals that would “wash specially treated black paper” into becoming US dollars.

Just on Monday night, 76 people, mostly Africans, were arrested by Federal police for cheating hundreds of people of RM29mil through various scams.

Bukit Aman commercial crime investigations deputy director SAC Datuk Rodwan Mohd Yusof said the police received 945 reports from January to October over con jobs that included parcel scams, black money, inheritance swindles and black magic.

A parcel scam is where the schemer would inform a victim that he or she had received parcels with expensive gifts, jewellery or cash, but the parcels had been detained by Customs.

The victim is then persuaded to make a payment to a stipulated account for the parcel to be released.
The schemers reaped RM19.6mil through this scam, the biggest loss suffered by the victims.

This was followed by the black money scam, which netted RM1.4mil.

“The crimes involving African scams are getting serious, with more people falling prey to them,” SAC Rodwan said.

This should be a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet.

But these scams only rob your pockets, unlike those who prey on innocent ones, especially young women, into becoming drug mules.

Again many Africans are being blamed for this.

They use the social media, namely Facebook, to befriend Malaysian women and lure them to carry a bag to a foreign country.

There are about 100 such women languishing in jails in places like Peru and China for trying to smuggle drugs into those countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohi­lan said these syndicates were targeting young women, aged between 20 and 35, without any criminal record.

Kohilan said he spoke to six women who were caught for drug trafficking in Peru during a bilateral visit there last year.

“They claimed that they were cheated. One said a man had promised to marry her and asked her to carry a luggage to Peru,” he said.

Police have found that these tricksters are usually good looking and had the gift of the gab.

Young women easily “fall in love” with them and end up willing to do anything for them.

Parents should remind their daughters that there are many predators on the Internet and all of them have no good intentions.

A recent survey by the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) found 80% of 100 girls, aged between 15 and 17 surveyed over eight months, had received calls or text messages from strangers via mobile phone while 54% of them had chatted online with strangers.

The centre’s programme director Dr Prema Devaraj said the findings showed young women were now easily accessible to people whom they did not know, including potential perpetrators.

“Many of them don’t seem to understand the danger in making friends with strangers by chatting online or over the phone.

“They may feel ‘safe’ because they are not in the presence of the person they are chatting with,” Dr Prema said.

It is not enough to teach our children to be streetwise.

They must also be taught to be cyberwise. There are just too many crooks and monsters out there.

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