CommentaryConnexionOPINION

Connexion: Scammers Destroy Lives and the Economy

By Joachim Ng

Are you a B40, M40, or T20? That’s how economists classify you according to your income. It’s all for convenience as 40-40-20 sounds neat, but the numbers tell you nothing. It is better to use a more practical grouping method such as Poor (25%), Non-Poor (50%), Non-Rich (15%), and Rich (10%). 

The traditional approach is to start with the poor and find ways to uplift them. But after 63 years at the job, the Government has moved just some inches from the starting line. The correct way is to start by analysing the Rich. How did they get rich and what lessons can we learn? The legitimately rich contributes a huge portion of income tax revenue, and they set aside charity funds to enrich society.

But there are also the criminally rich who pay no taxes and get their wealth by scamming people who have a little bit of money. Scammers won’t bother the poor except to recruit them as agents, and they avoid the rich because these are smart people who can detect a scam.

Scammers target the 50% Non-Poor and 15% Non-Rich; that’s 65% of the population and you’re likely one of them. Scam victims who lose all their savings will slip into poverty should they lose their jobs as well. They will swell the ranks of the Poor from 1-in-4 persons (25%) now to 1-in-3 (33%) in ten years’ time. 

The Government will also see the GDP falling significantly because  scammers will take their loot out of the country to avoid detection. Furthermore, scam victims will cut their retail spending drastically as they have no money left, and this will affect the overall business climate. The cascading effects of scamming are far more severe than the Government realises. 

There are at least four types of scam: jail scam, loan scam, investment scam, purchase scam. We shall describe the jail scam in this article, with a profile of likely victims so you can check whether it fits you.

Jail scam: You get a phone call from someone claiming to be a staffer at a big service corporation who then connects you to a supposed law enforcement officer speaking from a police office, tax office, anti-corruption office or Bank Negara office. Scammers possess the technology to copy the genuine number. 

The fake officer informs you that your name, bank account, or mobile number have been used to commit a crime. A ringleader has been arrested and he has implicated you in his confession. 

You face time in jail unless you bank-in a sum of money equal to the losses suffered by complainants. You get mobile phone instructions to transfer money via ATM into some accounts controlled by law enforcement personnel. But you will get back your money when your name is cleared. 

There goes all your savings and more. Scammers usually start at RM30,000 and can go up to several million ringgit depending on how much the scammer thinks you can borrow. The scammer will guide you on ways to raise loans from relatives and friends, thereby impoverishing them as well. Are you likely to fall victim? Here is a profile that you should consider as it may fit: 

First, the scammer assesses whether you are a secretive person who doesn’t reveal things happening to yourself. He then orders you to speak to him on your mobile phone in the privacy of your car so that no one can hear the conversation. At home you must not tell anybody what is happening.

Second, do you have any friends or relatives working in the police force or some government department? None? To the scammer this means you don’t know that law enforcers must follow standard operating procedures which forbid them from engaging in deals over the telephone. They are also forbidden to arrange money transfers to settle issues.

Third, are you fearful of authority? Schooled in a top-down authoritarian secular and religious educational system, Malaysians are inclined to follow the boss without question. This is just perfect for scammers, and they present themselves to you as authoritative figures.

Fourth, do you read printed newspapers, magazines, and books? No? So everything you read is on Facebook, Twitter, apps and chat. A person who habitually reads printed materials learns to analyse fresh information and to seek printed evidence of claims. Online readers tend to be less analytical and rarely demand proof. Eclipse of the print reading habit has rendered 65% of the population vulnerable to scamming. A scammer will make that fateful call to you one day.

 

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Joachim Ng

A veteran interfaith researcher and science enthusiast, Joachim Ng has acquired more than 45 years of research experience in studying the world's scriptures and harmonising them with latest scholarly findings in many disciplines especially science and spirituality. In the 1980s, he penned a weekly interfaith column that won him a Promotion of Unity award from the Malaysian Press Institute. In addition to five earlier books, he has delivered papers at international conferences held in New York, Los Angeles, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Assisi near Rome. A Master's degree holder from the University of Hull, UK, he is a former chairman of the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship and the recipient of an Ambassador for Peace award conferred by the Universal Peace Foundation.

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