Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the naïve, greedy and gullible who fall for scams that result in them parting with their hard-earned money.
Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their tactics and technology that anyone with a mobile phone and internet access is a potential victim. Even though some scams may look like the real deal, you can learn how to spot a scam and do background checks to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
The Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM) held a Facebook livestream on World Financial Planning Day, which was on the 5th of October 2022, where licensed financial planner, Dr Selina Dang offered guidelines on hot to spot a scam and how to avoid them.
How To Spot A Scam
Whatever their modus operandi may be, all scammers have the same endgame: to get you to hand over your money to them. That is why it is important to know how to spot a scam. Here are the common scams going around that most of us at some point might have encountered:
How To Spot A Scam: Macau Scams
You get a phone call out of the blue from an authority body; the police, the magistrate, the postal service or the Inland Revenue Board. The authoritative voice on the line will inform you that you have heavy criminal charges against you. The caller would read out your name and IC number to prove that they know who you are, with the purpose to lead you on to reveal personal information, namely your bank account password.
“The scammers put you under pressure, so they can reel you in. We are susceptible to these kind of calls because of our trust in authority,” Dr Dang said.
How To Spot A Scam: Phishing Scams
You see an ad somewhere on a website for a service you need from a legitimate business. You messaged them and got a reply with a link to their website or a request to download an app. Once you click on the link, you will be taken to a phishing website.
“With one click, you will be compromising all your personal data,” Dr Dang warned. “With the technology they have, the scammers are able to steal your usernames, passwords and even gain access to your SMSs.”
How To Spot A Scam: Investment Scams
The most obvious tell-tale sign that an investment opportunity is a scam, according to Dr Dang, is when they start guaranteeing or offering high returns with little to no risk.
“All investments involve some form of risk. The ones with high returns typically carry higher risk. Be aware of investments that promise to generate positive returns regardless of market conditions.”
How To Spot A Scam: Job Scams
Scammers would pose as recruiters in search of workers for foreign job positions in a foreign country with the promise of attractive job opportunities with a lucrative income. The jobseeker may be required to pay a processing fee in advance for work visas, air tickets and the necessary paperwork needed.
Once the money is paid, the scammer disappears.
Do Your Due Diligence
“The point of engagement is where the scam starts,” Dr Dang said. Thus, the best way to not get scammed is to not engage with the scammer in the first place. Once you know how to spot a scam, it is important not to fall in their trap.
Here are several strategies one can take to protect themselves from being reeled in by a scammer:
Don’t pick up automated calls
“A good sign of a scam call is when you hear a recorded message, asking you to press a number to speak to a person. If you receive such a call, hang up right away,” Dr Dang said.
Never give away personal information over the phone – Some scammers are able to use technology to spoof their number, so that a legitimate phone number will show up on your Caller ID and make you believe you are indeed speaking to a person in authority. Even in such scenarios, Dr Dang would like to remind you that, “No official body will call you for personal information or to threaten you with legal action.”
Have a spam call filter in place
Very often nowadays, we receive calls from unfamiliar numbers, many of which are likely from scammers. Fortunately, most phone models now come with a Caller ID and Spam Protection feature that filters incoming calls. If your phone doesn’t have this feature, you can install the Truecaller app, available on Apple and Android, which is also useful for screening unsolicited telemarketer calls.
“Speak to the elderly folks and teenagers in your family about protecting themselves from scammers, and help them install these safety features on their phones,” Dr Dang added.
Make sure the bank account you are sending money to is not used for scams
When buying things online where you are dealing directly with the seller, such as through garage sale apps like Carousell and Facebook marketplace, do check to be sure that the bank account you are given to send payment to is not a mule account. This can be done through the Semak Mule portal or the Scam Response Centre by the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID).
Don’t click on any unauthorised links that may take you to a phishing website
“If you happen to click on such links, do not enter your personal details, and only download apps from official app stores,” reminded Dr Dang.
Check with the right regulators
If approached with an investment opportunity, always check first if the product or service is regulated by Bank Negara or the Securities Commission (SC). Next, check to see whether the person you are dealing with is a licensed or unlicensed intermediary.
“SC has very strict guidelines when it comes to investments. Money must be transferred to a legitimate company registered either with Bank Negara or SC, not just any company,” Dr Dang explained.
She then added: “Also, never, under any circumstances, deposit money into an individual’s personal account. If anyone asks you to transfer money to their account or an unauthorised company, please stop. It is a major red flag.”
Now that you know how to spot a scam, let’s do our part to spread the awareness to someone else.