By Joachim Ng
Sergeant Ho Mum Foo of Perak contingent and Sergeant Tan Keng Seng of Sabah contingent are two of the most well known sergeants in Malaysia. They have become notorious through their leadership of an underworld scammers association of fake police sergeants.
They spend 10 hours a day on mobile, and if you haven’t heard from them or any of the other fake sergeants it can only mean that your number is still virgin. Rest assured that eventually your number will be sold to the scammers association. Selling mobile numbers is big business, and is there a law against it? How is it that nobody has been charged in court?
What do Sgt Ho and Sgt Tan want from you? Your entire life savings and whatever amount you can borrow. A 90-year-old woman lost RM3.8 million in a series of cash transfers between April and June, the real police disclosed early this month. Fortunately, some of the money has been recovered by police.
It’s a jail scam, unwisely called the “Macao scam” as if it happens only in Macao. It’s far more prevalent in Malaysia and the trick is to tele-hypnotise you into believing that you have been implicated in a serious crime and the only way you can stay out of jail is to transfer the required amount of money as bail.
So now we have a real police force and a fake police force. How do you tell one from the other? One clue is that while the real police force have ranks like ASPs, DSPs, DCPs, and Commissioners of Police, the fakes are sergeants and inspectors. They humble themselves hoping that if they impersonate low-ranking personnel and are caught, the penalty is lesser. They should hang, all the same.
It helps to understand the basic standard operating procedure of the real police: they will never call you to ask for any payment. In fact, if the police want to discuss any matter with you, they will ask you to come to the station. The police are not allowed to tell grandmother stories over the phone, stories about Pos Laju seizing a parcel with your ATM card, credit card, or your old MyKad in it, and stories about how a Maybank general manager has confessed and named you.
Bank and telco AIs (artificial intelligence) can easily trace and catch the scammers in action because these scammers are using digital platforms that can be monitored by surveillance software. As a victim, you transfer money to a number of scammer accounts but it won’t stay there because these are purchased or rented numbers. The loot will be transferred out to another account and then distributed to various other accounts to pay the scam assistants.
AI’s greatest expertise is in pattern recognition and detection of abnormalities that will instantly trigger alerts. There are several trigger points. Unless the victim is a global export-import merchant, why is she transferring such huge sums of money to various accounts which are probably rented from college students?
Why are these college students receiving such huge amounts of money from a person unknown to them? A bank AI detective can immediately spot these abnormalities and alert the police to make an arrest while the scam is in progress.
As for the telcos, AI can trace every call to its exact location. If you are a scammer, certain tele-hypnotic keywords that you are using will trigger a system alarm and your location will be pinpointed while you are scamming some old lady. This is detective child’s play to a telco AI.
If banks and telcos combine their AIs into one massive cyber-detective facility, the lucrative scamming industry will collapse by next weekend, all scammers will be in Sungai Buloh prison by month-end, and will start hanging by year-end because it is a seditious offence to impersonate a law officer to commit robbery.
The misfortune of the 90-year-old woman who lost all her life savings during the scam period could have been averted, if banks and telcos use AI to stop scammers. But telcos and banks depend on high-volume traffic, and their primary concern is like that of any highway toll operator who will let a tiger through so long as the animal pays.
Since the banks and telcos aren’t spending money to protect you, these are five actions to consider:
- Minimise usage of the handphone. Subscribe to the cheapest telco package. Instruct your telco to bar all numbers that are not listed in your database. Go back to computer-based email communication.
- Leave the barest amount of cash in your savings, current, or FD accounts so that you don’t have ready money to give scammers.
- Give up all your ATM cards. They are a favourite with scammers who prefer that you use them to transfer money, as ATM transactions are less traceable. Use e-wallets to make payments instead.
- Demand laws that require communication and banking networks to install AI that can detect and bar scam operations, as well as alert the police.
- Tell your MP that if banks, telcos, and police don’t clamp a lockdown on scamming now, it will develop into a pandemic with devastating consequences for the Malaysian economy. Which crook won’t do it if he knows that he can get away with a million?