Don’t play scratch and blame
JOHOR BARU: Be needy and not greedy to avoid falling victim to “Scratch-and-Win” scams, says Johor’s top cop. State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff said people should not act based on greed and risk being conned by such scams.
“Don’t be gullible and believe you can easily win big prizes in this ‘Scratch-and-Win’ activity,” he told a press conference at the state police headquarters here yesterday.
He advised the public not to blame the police for not taking action against the syndicates but instead protect themselves by being vigilant. He was commenting on The Star’s front-page report on “Scratch-and-Win” scammers making an aggressive comeback in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Malacca, Kedah and Perak. Despite numerous media reports, many people continue to fall prey to the scam. The victims include university students, housewives, civil servants, businessmen and even professionals.
DCP Mohd Mokhtar said police recorded 38 cases of such scams last year, and 87 reports were lodged so far this year. He said the cases were often referred to the state Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs department.
“Don’t act irrationally and point the finger of blame on the police. We have acted on many such reports by cooperating with the department and often advising victims to report to the Consumer Claims Tribunal,” he said. He added that police could investigate reports against the syndicates but had no power to recover the victims’ money.
“We investigate and refer the matter to the Deputy Public Prosecutor’s office for further action.
“However, not all ‘Scratch-and-Win’ cases are classified as fraud. Some might fall under the Direct Selling Act 1993, which is under the purview of the department,” he said.
Tale of scratch-and-win tactics in two cities
- In Johor Baru:
I WAS approached by two youths who came knocking at my apartment in Tampoi, Johor Baru, at about 3pm. They flashed me their identification cards, a piece of laminated paper that had their photograph, a company logo and only their names on it. They then told me that they were doing a survey for a supermarket chain and needed a few minutes of my time. They also assured me that I did not have to buy anything, as it was only a survey to know the demographics of the population around Tampoi.
After asking some personal questions like my household expenses and how I spend my money, one of the youths told me that in an effort to attract customers, his outlet was giving away prizes to lucky winners. One of them took out a card and told me to scratch it, saying this was also the shopping complex’s way of rewarding me for my time. After I scratched it and the card revealed a picture of a car, the duo immediately started congratulating me, saying I had won a Toyota Altis and that this was the first time they had seen a person winning it. They said people usually won holiday packages, motorcycles, flat-screen television sets, computers and mattresses. They also kept complimenting me for being the “luckiest person that month” and showed me photographs of past winners that had been published recently in local dailies. They even showed me the exact colour photographs as published in the newspaper.
They also called their “boss” on his mobile phone and told me that he wanted to congratulate me personally. They then invited me to go to their sales outlet in Permas to collect the car, which they said had to be given away that very day. When I declined, telling them that I was busy, they even offered to drive me to their office. They said their commission depended on the items won by the customers. They did their best to coax me into going with them, saying I was also eligible to win other electrical items. But I declined their offer and sent them off.
When I went downstairs and met up with some neighbours, I realised that a total of five people from my apartment block had “won” Toyota Altis cars that day. – NELSON BENJAMIN
I HAD just loaded some things into my car at the parking lot of a hypermarket in Puchong when Yap, 17, came running after me with a pink envelope in his hand. He introduced himself and said that he was promoting a lucky draw. All I had to do was open the envelope and if it contained the words terima kasih (thank you), he would not bug me any more. He said he would just get a commission of 50 sen from his company. To the security guards at the hypermarket, Yap is ulat (bug), which refers to pushy people who are looking for victims for their scratch-and-win scam.
It seemed the luck of the gods was shining on me that day, as the sum of RM1,500,000 was written on the paper inside the envelope. With a look of shock, surprise and disbelief rolled into one, Yap shouted: “Oh my god, you are so lucky, sir. You are a winner!” Apparently, I was in the running to win a car, motorcycle, fridge, laptop or video camera.
“You don’t need to pay me anything. It’s all free,” Yap said. He proceeded to open his bag and take out a laminated advertisement published in a leading Bahasa Malaysia national daily. (Incidentally, the ad cost more than RM12,000.) The advertisement told of how a businessman had won a new car by taking part in the same scratch-and-win contest that Yap was now pushing me to do. So I stood to win a brand new car. And Yap said that he would receive a commission of RM3,000 if I won the car. The only catch was that I would have to go with him to his office in another part of Puchong. (He even asked me to drive him there.)
“You can hold my identity card if you don’t believe me. You have nothing to lose,” said the pushy Yap. I politely declined. – RASHVINJEET S. BEDI
Student loses RM2,200 in scratch and win scam
VICTIM: Cheok showing the police report and the identity card of a women who conned him
COLLEGE student Cheok Yin Keat had in the past read accounts of people being duped by "scratch and win" scams. However, little did he know that he would one day fall prey to a scam that he has read so much about. The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman student initially thought that he had won himself a brand new car, but instead lost RM2,200 in cash.
Relating the incident, the 22-year-old from Seremban said he was at Berjaya Times Square on Sunday when he was approached by two women and four men. They invited him to take part in a contest, where he would have to scratch a coupon and find out the prize that he had won.
"Initially, I refused to take part and asked them to show their identification card. One of the women then handed me her card and told me that I do not need to pay anything, and that I should just give it a shot. I agreed and scratched the coupon they gave me," he said. The group had earlier explained to Cheok that a colour would appear when he scratched the coupon and that different colours would indicate the type of prizes he would get. Silver colour was for the grand prizes which could either be cars, cash or tickets to holiday destinations.
"I was elated when I got the silver colour and they asked me to follow them to their office in Taman Desa to find out the actual prize I had won," said Cheok. However, once we arrived at the office, Cheok was asked to pay RM3,800 in order to redeem the prize. Since he did not have the full amount, one person from the group then offered to help him pay RM1,600, and asked Cheok to pay the balance of RM2,200.
"Without hesitating I went to the nearest ATM machine and took out the money and passed it to the same woman who showed me her identification card. She seemed like she was writing down the code number of my money but managed to run away with my money right under my nose when two guys distracted me," said Cheok. The whole situation just became more and more like a movie when they gave Cheok a jade studded pillow claiming that it was worth RM4,000 which he refused to take.
Finally, realising that he was being duped, Cheok demanded for his money back but this time, the men did not pretend to be nice anymore when they pushed him out of the office and left the premises when Cheok threatened to call the police. Cheok then lodged a report at the Brickfields police station and sought help from the MCA Wangsa Maju Division, where he brought along the woman’s identification card which was given to him earlier.
"Now that we have the identity card of the woman, we will give her one week to come to our office to return his money and she can take her card back. But if she refuses, we will write a letter to the National Registration Department and request that she is not given a replacement card," said MCA Youth Chairman for Wangsa Maju Division Soo Jing Wey who held a Press conference yesterday morning at Taman Danau Kota, Setapak.
MCA Youth calls attention to scratch-and-win scams
JOHOR BARU: MCA Youth will hand over a memorandum to the Prime Minister, the MCA president and the Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister to call their attention to the proliferation scratch-and-win scams. MCA Youth Consumer Affairs bureau deputy chief Kua Song Tuck said the bureau was compiling information related to the matter for the memorandum to be submitted soon.
He said a recent assault in Kuala Lumpur involving two scratch-and-win workers showed that the victims were taking matters into their own hands. He said he was worried that similar cases would happen if no further action was taken by the relevant government agencies.
Solving problems: Kua (second from left) and other MCA Youth members addressing the press conference in Johor Baru recently.
“From the scratch-and-win cases we have dealt with, we know it is difficult for the victims to get their money reimbursed.
“They come to us after lodging police reports. About 30% of them had obtained orders from the Consumer Claims Tribunal but still failed to get their money back,” said Kua at a press conference here recently. He urged the police and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Department to set up a task force to curb the syndicates.
“Many people have fallen victim to the syndicates that use cunning ways to close deals. We want action against them.
“The amount of money involved is between RM3,000 and RM5,000, but there are victims who have lost larger sums,” he said, adding that the biggest sum was in a case in Kluang that involved RM110,000. Kua said the amount victims lose to the syndicates might be more than RM1mil a day.
“The syndicates have about 50 branches nationwide. If each branch closes 10 deals of RM3,000 each a day, they make RM1.5mil,” he said. Kua said that another concern was that the workers hired by the syndicates were young, mostly teenagers.
“They are supposed to be the future leaders and it is worrying that they are involved in such syndicates,” he said.
‘Police did not help’ claim by scratch-and-win scam victim
KUALA LUMPUR: A victim of a scratch-and-win scam claims that police dismissed her case as a civil matter and told her to seek help from the Consumer Claims Tribunal. Lee Bok Kee, 51, sought the help of MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Datuk Michael Chong instead. Chong informed city CID chief Datuk Ku Chin Wah and was told that Lee’s case was being investigated for cheating. He added that he had received 51 similar cases since last year, involving some RM296,000. Of the 31 cases this year, Chong said he was only able to get refunds for six victims.
In Lee’s case, she was approached by a teenager in Jalan Leboh, Ampang, on June 23. The teenager offered Lee an envelope to open. Lee was then told she had won a car but had to pay the company a sum of money before she could collect her prize. She went to the bank, withdrew some cash and gave the woman RM3,000. Lee was later asked to pick from one of three envelopes. The envelope she picked claimed she had won a selection of home appliances worth about RM12,000. However, to claim the prize, she needed to pay the company another RM4,000.
Lee did not pay the additional sum, but had signed a contract binding her to pay an amount of money should she reject the home appliances. Later, she contacted the company to get her RM3,000 back. She said each time she called the company to ask about the refund, the company personnel would be evasive and gave her excuses. Lawyer Alex Kok, who is assisting Chong, claimed this was a criminal and cheating case because the culprits demanded payments from the victims before delivering the goods.
Be more aware of the latest scams, youngters told
THE scratch-and-win scam is back, but this time around, there is a new twist. A 22-year-old student was cheated of RM2,200 last Sunday by a group of six youngsters who led him to believe he had won a car. Cheok Yin Kiet, from Setapak, initially refused to believe the group, but one girl handed over her Mykad to him to convince him that they were genuine. She forgot to take it back. This, according to the MCA Wangsa Maju division, is a new tactic to con unsuspecting victims like Cheok.
“I trusted her only because she gave me her Mykad without fear. I did not know it was a new tactic to convince me,” Cheok said. The victim was approached by the group at Berjaya Times Square shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur and was asked to scratch a token. He was told that if the colour turned out to be silver, he stood a chance of winning a car, cash and a free holiday. After the girl handed over her Mykad, the group took Cheok to their bare office in Taman Desa to redeem his gift. Upon arrival, he was asked to take part in another lucky draw. Cheok won a jade-studded pillow this time around, but the group said he had to pay RM2,200 before he could collect it.
The group told him the pillow was worth more than RM4,000 and they proceeded to a nearby Shell petrol station to withdraw the cash. However, when they got back to the office, Cheok had second thoughts.
“I told them I had changed my mind, but they refused to give me back my money and pushed me out of the office,” he said. Cheok immediately called 991. However, the group saw Cheok making the call and fled the office. Cheok then proceeded to the Brickfields police station to lodge a report. He also sought the assistance of Wangsa Maju MCA division chairman Datuk Yew Teong Look’s service centre. Yew’s secretary, Lim Choon Hong, said they were hoping the suspect, who had handed over her Mykad, would come to the Wangsa Maju MCA office to clarify the matter.
“We are giving her one week to come and meet us at the office, failing which we will report her to the National Registration Department so she will not be able to make another Mykad,” Lim said during a press conference held at the MCA office in Danau Kota on Tuesday. Meanwhile, MCA Wangsa Maju Youth chief Soo Jing Wey said he was puzzled over why the police did not scrutinise the case more closely as it involved a Mykad.
“The case cannot be solved by the police as it is a clear buy-and-sell issue, so they will refer the case to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs,” Soo said.
“However, under Malaysian law, a citizen cannot be in possesion of another person’s Mykad, so why didn’t they take the Mykad from Cheok?” Soo asked.
He said the modus operandi was still the same but the perpetrators were scouting new locations, like malls, for victims, rather than the old haunts like car parks. He also hoped that youths would start paying attention to the media to understand and know the latest issues around them. He said the new scams targeted youths but many still fell prey despite the alerts and warnings sent out. The service centre had received four to five scam cases involving youngsters since last year but only two from senior citizens.
Scratch-and-win syndicate strikes again
YET another victim has fallen prey to the scratch-and-win scam despite numerous reports on such cases. At a press conference at Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun’s service centre, 50-year-old school canteen vendor Siew Chee Onn, whose daughter had fallen prey to the scam hopes to highlight this issue so that others would not become victims.
Last week, his daughter Siew Yee Ting, 20, and her friend were approached by two sales people who tried to promote their products to her. She was then asked to try her luck and pick one of the envelopes that contained prizes. The salesmen then informed Siew that she had won some prizes and asked her to follow them to their office in Kuchai Entrepreneurs Park. She was introduced to a person only known as Tee who told her that she had to pay government taxes amounting to RM5,600 and sign an agreement in order to redeem her prize. As she did not have enough cash in hand, she went to an ATM and only managed to withdraw RM3,000 but the company issued her a receipt anyway.
After signing the agreement, she discovered that she had “won” a jade mattress and Nano digital stove, worth RM10,000 in total. She was unsatisfied with the prize and felt short-changed, feeling that the prizes were not worth the money paid and attempted to get her money back. However, she was unable to do so as she had signed the agreement that clearly stated she had to accept the prize and could not object nor take any further action. She then lodged a report at the Brickfields police station.
When asked why his daughter has fallen prey to such scams that have been highlighted in the media, Siew replied that she did not read the newspapers. It was noted that the company address stated in the agreement Siew signed was different from the one in the receipt. Fong said the police should take action against such syndicates to prevent the public from becoming victims.
“There’s no such thing as free lunch,” he said.
“These syndicates take advantage of human weaknesses. The public should read the newspapers and keep abreast of such scams,” he said. He added that snatch theft cases had doubled from 600 cases (in 2008) to 1,200 in the first quarter of the year.
‘Scratch and win’ assault
KUALA LUMPUR: Seven angry and frustrated people who claimed to have been cheated in a scratch-and-win scam beat up two men allegedly involved in the scam. The group had gone to a double-storey shoplot in Taman Danau Desa here at 1pm to demand reimbursement of the money they had paid. It is learnt that the situation became tense and the group suddenly began assaulting two men working there as well as breaking things in the office.
Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia executive secretary Datuk Nadzim Johan and three others coincidentally arrived minutes after the fracas broke out.
“I was accompanying a complainant who was a victim of this scam. We were planning to negotiate a reimbursement for the victim, so I called the media as well, but was shocked to see the two staff members in their 20s being beaten up and the office smashed up.
Venting their frustration: The group of men attacking one of the men allegedly involved in the scam at a double-storey shoplot in Taman Danau Desa Thursday.
“I shouted ‘stop’ several times before they finally stopped assaulting the duo.
“I believe they were relatives of victims who were cheated of their money after they were promised a Perodua Viva,” Nadzim said. He said victims of scratch-and-win scams were often frustrated by the lack of action against the culprits.
“The victims usually lodged police reports and complained to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs enforcement division but little or no action is taken against these unscrupulous people who continue to prey on unsuspecting victims,” Nadzim said. He also noted that the duo were not badly injured and only had bruises on their body and face.
p.s All stories were collected from thestar and malaymail newspaper.