From online scams to investment scams, scammers are still active and rampant, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many scammers took advantage and made many Malaysians fall for different types of fraud schemes and scams. If you've become a victim, what can you do and where to report? Read more find out and learn how to avoid being scammed with these 10 tips.
Anyone can be a target, anyone can be a victim.
Regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or background, anyone could be a casualty of fraud. From large investments to small ticket items online, scammers are anywhere and everywhere.
In fact, fraud dates back to the year B.C. when a Greek merchant named Hegestratos took out a large insurance policy known as bottomry. Long story short, his plan failed and he drowned trying to escape his crew and passengers when they caught him in the deceptive act.
The only difference between a scammer back in the day or a few decades ago versus now is the technique of stealing and how it’s done. Online hackers and scammers combine old dirty tricks with technology to terrorize unsuspecting users.
Here are 10 practical steps you can take to identify a scammer and know if you are being scammed. The best way to avoid fraud is through prevention, so let’s try to stay ahead of the game and be more vigilant!
1. Deal with individuals and entities who/that are registered/licensed under SC
Spot these imposters before they engage with you. Scammers often pretend to be someone you can trust or someone of authority like a government official, a family member, someone representing a charity etc.
Don’t give out personal information and data or send money to any unexpected requests - be it via phone text, email or phone call, especially if you have a bad gut feeling about it. For more information on persons or entities registered under SC, click here.
2. Ask questions and request important information - vet them through and through!
Scammers often bank on the fact that people either don’t ask the right information or are too lazy to do basic research before making a decision, whether it be a big investment or a simple online purchase.
Just like any other big decisions in life such as purchasing a property or a car, choosing a career, getting married, etc. make sure you conduct thorough research on who you are dealing with, the individuals that make up the organization and its services and products.
Thanks to technology, everyone can search up literally anything on the internet. Type in the entity or individual or piece of information you have, and pair it with words like “review” or “scam” to see if it’s associated with anything negative. If you have their phone numbers, Google it.
3. Check with authorities before investing/depositing monies
Never ever deposit or wire money to any entity or organization that you are unsure of. Just like how you would never open a door to a stranger, you shouldn’t be giving out personal information easily like that as well.
Check with BNM and the SC if you need to verify information on an individual or organization. For more information, visit BNM’s website and the SC’s website.
4. Beware of Ponzi schemes
Essentially these are fraudulent investment schemes where the operators will take money from new investors to pay earlier or existing investors.
The whole project will continue until it reaches a critical stage when there are not enough new investors to provide sufficient funds, subsequently the whole scheme collapses.
This trick often works with investors who don’t request for a detailed breakdown of how and where their money will be invested.
The solution is to request as much information on the business as possible. They should be able to tell you how they plan to be profitable.
5. Ask for certifications to prove authenticity
Scam alerts help you be more aware of active scams and organizations that are fake.
Though people can falsify their credentials in today’s advanced world, having documentation helps solidify claims, and is always better than nothing.
For instance, multi level-marketing (MLM) companies that sell stuff like water coolers, protein shakes, health products and cleaning supplies are all legal, though many may assume otherwise. What makes companies illegal is when they operate as a pyramid scheme, a model where commissions are given based on fees received from new recruits that are brought into the scheme.
How do you verify if an MLM company is legal? Request for their Direct Selling Association Malaysia (DSAM) and Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) certificates. Check here for the full list of DSAM companies.
6. Be skeptical of investment opportunities online and on social media
The rule of thumb is - if it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not true.
If you’ve gotten yourself involved in an investment opportunity, always request everything in writing for an official black and white. The internet allows scammers to contact a wider pool of victims, so be wary of organizations or individuals that contact you out of the blue.
7. Mull over the decision to invest - don’t rush
When a deal seems lucrative or appealing, it may be tempting to make a decision right away, but this is where the trap usually comes in.
Don’t be pressured into investing! Make an informed decision by examining all the facts and analyzing how you feel about it.
8. Non-secure payment methods
Scammers will often ask you to make payments through non-secure methods such as money cheques and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Scammers also opt for wire, bank or international funds transfers.
Non-secure methods are difficult to track and will make it difficult for you to recover your hard earned money. We found out that credit cards are one of the most secure payment methods.
By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the list of credit cards on our websites, especially if you are on the lookout for one.
9. Be aware of the internet
Surf at your own risk - remind yourself to be extra careful of advertisements on social media or online. When using a public wifi, for example, consider these extra steps:
- Use a virtual private network aka VPN, which lets you encrypt your web traffic, allowing you to protect your browser sessions from hackers and the owners of the public network.
- Refrain from accessing any personal information or data such as bank accounts, primary email accounts, shopping accounts etc. on a public network.
- It is recommended to disable automatic connectivity when in public. This will prevent your device from any unsecure networks within your area.
- Only visit webpages that use https over http. Websites that use https are encrypted to protect your data.
- Always update your software and apps to protect your device from getting hacked and reduce the chances of identity theft, loss of information etc.
- Connect to secure networks only - unsecure networks open the door for malicious people to view and send you stuff during your browsing session. Opt for secure networks or set up your own hotspot.
- Always change your passwords - Update your passwords regularly and ensure you are using complex characters and number combinations that won’t be easily guessed.
10. Keep copies of all your documents and investments
Let’s say you’ve made an investment. What do you do now? First things first, make sure to have documentations of all your investments and transactions for your own record and it will help you solidify your claims.
Related: Don’t Become a Victim of Work-from-Home Scams
What to do if I get scammed? Here’s where to report scams in Malaysia
BNM advises that we take the following steps if we’ve been scammed:
- Lodge a police report
- Then report to relevant enforcement agencies
- Keep all records and documentations - including crucial details of the persons/organizations involved: name, age, title, agency
For more information, you may directly contact the two BNM centres below:
BNMTELELINK (Call Centre)
Tel.: 1-300-88-5465 (1-300-88-LINK)
Fax: 03-2174 1515
SMS to 15888: BNM TANYA [your report / query]
Operating Hours: 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. (Monday - Friday)
BNMLINK (Walk-in Centre)
Ground Floor, D Block,
Bank Negara Malaysia,
Jalan Dato' Onn
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Operating Hours: 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. (Monday - Friday)
Okay, what else should I be aware of?
To be extra careful, we advise you check out this list of unauthorized companies and websites, a.k.a the infamous BNM scammer list, so you are aware of the types of entities to avoid.
If you suspect there might be an ongoing scam, you can lodge a complaint on improper conduct, public scams or other irregularities to the SC here.
Lastly, be on top of scam alerts and fraud and scam notices as and when by following these links on BNM.
Final thoughts? You can’t stop scams, but you can be extra vigilant
There’s no set formula or guarantee that you will never be scammed in life, but there are many things you can do - simple ones in fact - to help reduce the possibility of being a victim of fraud or scam.
Everyone plays a role in the war against cybercrime, and you must play your own part by having a higher sense of accountability and responsibility.
Remember to think twice before ever giving away any piece of personal information or data.
Read also: 7 Types Of Shocking COVID-19 Scams All Malaysians Need To Be Aware Of