This is a true event which came from my own experience recently.
Often we read about cases how people can lose millions to con men via phone call on the paper, or maybe the Internet. At times, we will receive some phony calls from people with foreign accent who claimed to be someone they are not. Usually, we are smart enough to know steps to avoid such people.
However, in this case, I almost fell for the trick. Almost!
Here, I will try my best to recap how my encounter with this group of swindlers went.
It was near noon, and Mom received a call from someone who claimed to be a collection officer from a local bank, informing there that there are 3 months arrears for her credit card bill. Mom was puzzled, she was very sure that she meets her statement deadline every month, and had not missed a single payment to date. I then took over the phone, and checked with the ‘officer’ what actually went wrong.
The officer explained to me the whole scenario, I then request to cross check information. Soon, I found out that the card this officer mentioned is not the same card which Mom is holding. The billing address was wrong! The registered corresponded address shows some address from the other side of the country. I told the officer that this is wrong, and he has to get this fixed.
He agreed, and suggested that this probably could be one of the suspected fraud cases. (At this point, our conversation was in Mandarin). He advised us that we should make a report to Bank Negara Malaysia, and showed us what are the information needed to lodge report.
Here’s what he had given me:
- Card number: 5406 0062 1050 2021 (Silver Mastercard)
- Card Application Date: March 19, 2012.
- Card applied at a branch located at Jalan Raja Laut (Kuala Lumpur).
- First Transaction was dated at April 8, 2012, with purchase at Kedai Emas Poh Kwong at Sunway Pyramid, with amount totaled at MYR 3,694.
- Second Transaction was dated at April 15, 2012, Kedai Barangan Elektrik Seng Heng (Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur), with total amount of RM 2,348.
- Total outstanding amount due stood at MYR 6042.
- The credit limit for the card was at MYR 8,000.
So after feeding me with this ‘crucial’ piece of information, the officer said he will transfer the line to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). Before ending the conversation, I requested for his name and his office and department he’s with. He confidently gave me a name, and the office he’s reporting to.
Fine. I did not suspect anything, and waited for the line to be transferred thru.
‘Hello,’ the greeting broke the put-on-hold ringtone on the line. He greeted in Bahasa Malaysia.
I then responded with my poor command of Bahasa Malaysia, and it seems like we’re going nowhere. Seem like he doesn’t understand what I said. So, conveniently, he somehow could speak Mandarin when my mom asked him if he could speak Mandarin.
It took us a while before we told him our intention, and he said he would help us with lodging a report. When I wanted to present what the bank officer provided me earlier, he then quickly brushed me off. He told me the bank officer had already sent the information to him earlier, before he answered the call.
At this point, I wasn’t suspicious of anything yet. All I wanted to do, is to get the things over with.
Then with this BNM officer, he was reluctant to deal with me. He would try to talk to Mom instead.
At this point, the phone call has lasted for almost an hour already, and there was no sign that this conversation is ending yet. Come to think about it, this ‘officer’ at BNM asked a few weird questions, such as:
- How far is BNM branch in Kuching from your house?
- Where is the nearest police station? How far is it?
- And he repeatedly check with me, asked if there is a 3rd party’s presence, other Mom and myself.
To cut the story short, he prepared the report, and said he will submit this to his superior, and that the superior will call us within that day to follow up with investigation. When I asked bout his name, and his contact number, he seemed to be annoyed. The way he responded, seemed like we are not trusting him enough. But my intention was, I just want to know who I should contact in case I need to follow up in future. He even dared me to cross check their phone number with the 103 directory.
In order to prove that they’re genuine officers from BNM, he made call from the direct line, and indeed the caller ID shown on my phone are the numbers from BNM, as registered. So we moved on with completion of the report. This officer then ended the call, and reminded us that his supervisor will call within 15 minutes with investigation.
Some 10 minutes later, they called. I answered.
“Hello, boleh saya cakap dengan XXXX?” she said.
I thought the supervisor was a Malay, and I passed the phone to Mom. Mom couldn’t really hear well, and had tough time conversing in Malay language. She then asked if she could speak in English or Mandarin. And, conveniently, she could!
By now, I came to sense now, I started to suspect that this could be a phony call. Looking back at the information given, it was plain weird. I then decided to call bank myself, and verify information. While I was trying to verify information, the lady on the phone told my mom that all account will be frozen for investigation purposes. Mom panicked, of course. Then I heard something like, she offered some faster way to solve the problem, and try to get my mom to go to bank, to do some transaction.
It’s getting more suspicious now.
At this point, I manage to get hold of the right department for verification. I told the agent on the line that there was someone who claimed to be their collection officer, and I wanted to verify the card number given.
As soon as I read out the 16 digits, the first response I got from the customer service agent was, “Sir, this is a scam. Please do not give them any information. You’re not the first person to have faced this, we’ve got a few customers reporting this case to us already.”
I almost bought the whole story! At this point, the lady must have run out of patience, since I showed reluctance in going to bank for transaction . Mind you, at this point, the whole call duration from them lasted for almost 2 hours already. Also, these people would never want to end the call, and they want to make sure you’re on the line all the time. The reason being, it is a recorded conversation, and must not be interrupted.
So, after I got off phone with the genuine bank officer, I took the phone from Mom, and told them off.
“We will deal with the bank directly, thank you. We do not want to proceed with the report/investigation.”
She panicked a little, probably disappointed in a way, and she tried to get us back on hook.
The call finally ended, after few hours long! I was so angry, for the fact that I almost fell into the trap! Thank God it didn’t happen.
The reason why I wrote this out, is to share with you what tricks they could use now, to trap you, and probably squeeze all your savings from you, and transfer the money to their account.
It was definitely a close call. It was almost a perfect trap from them, they injected a lot of fear factor, and caused panic. When we panic, we do not think a lot, as we just want to get things over with quickly. So, whatever happens, we’ve gotta keep our heads cool, and make sure we’re in control. Remember that, it’s important!
Few things to take note:
- When dealing with bank, they’re very particular with numbers. Every single cent matters, they cannot afford to give you a plus minus figure.
- Banks, cannot transfer/connect calls to BNM directly. When in doubt, you can always check with local branch, if not, look up the customer service number at the Contact Us page in their websites.
I think I’ve written enough. Just be extra careful guys! Be extra alert.
Thank you for reading.