Exercise caution in online investments

HOW do the authorities catch foreigners cheating Malaysians online? That’s an easy one – it is difficult. Even with the help of international police agencies such as Aseanapol and Interpol, it is difficult because most online fraud cases involve foreigners with overseas call centres. Online cheating has been going on for more than two decades and the number of people cheated has increased manifold despite reports of such cases appearing in newspapers almost every day. Numerous warnings have been issued by the police and the Home Ministry but they’re generally like water off a duck’s back. It seems that few are discouraged and it is only when victims fail to get a “return on their investments” do they report it, hoping the police would be able to get them back the amount invested, which according to some ranges anywhere from a few ringgit to hundreds of thousands.

By now the amount “handed over” to foreign fraudsters could run into millions. Of course the authorities have to reassure victims and one way is by saying there is “a task force made up of police, Bank Negara and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission” looking into the matter. It is always the complaints that get reported, and thus far no one has come forward to say he/she has earned something from an “investment”. That alone should be enough to discourage those thinking of venturing into online schemes.

The question often asked is: why are Malaysians so gullible and easily cheated? And even after reading reports about people being fleeced and being warned by the police and ministry, they continue to be drawn to persuasive email like moths to candlelight or like sailors in the Greek mythology inexorably drawn to their doom by the singing Sirens. From the number taken in by online fraud, and this is based on reported cases, it is evident that the cheats – working on the old assumptions that man is greedy by nature and that there’s a fool born every minute – have been quite successful. And it is more than possible that more and more foreigners are sending out persuasive email asking Malaysians to “invest” following their compatriots in the game telling them it is like taking candy from a child. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Lee Chee Leong told the Senate on Monday that Malaysians should not respond to email asking for details of bank accounts especially if they don’t know the sender. But the best policy is still to try to avoid sending confidential details online.