Just yesterday, I saw this news article about a scam that involves an old businessman losing RM3.8 million. It seems that scammers are trying to explore different markets segments, exploiting our emotions and weaknesses to make a quick profit.
Like most news, I never pay too much attention thinking it will not happen to me…
…until this morning.
Scam Introduction – Hello, how are you doing?
The greeting came from someone I know in the past. He is a prominent figure in the world of personal finance. Since we are still in the CNY celebration period, it didn’t cross my mind that this is a fake account created by the scammer.
Looking back, there’s plenty of red flags. The scammer texted me using a new Instagram account, with the picture of the person I know. The entire account is brand new without any connections and posts.
However, as I said, I didn’t notice I was replying to a fake account until The Bait.
The Bait – IDA Grant Program
After a short exchange of pleasantries, the Scammer asked me if I have heard of the recent good news going on lately.
Well, since he (the person I know) and I are both in the personal finance industry, I was wondering what news did I miss?
The Scammer then revealed about a grant program.
I immediately recalled the news article I read yesterday, however, at that point in time, I wasn’t 100% sure this is a scam, but I have my doubts. (Like I said, he is a senior in the industry, I didn’t want to offend him, in case my intuition is wrong.)
So, I proceeded to ask him personal questions to see how he will respond. Spoiler: he did not.
I guess it is smart of them to avoid personal questions in case the story doesn’t tally. This is the point in time when I notice I am chatting with a new Instagram account and 100% sure I am chatting with a Scammer.
I can easily just ignore the chat; however, as some of you may know, I am the curious type. I am wondering, how did a businessman lose RM3.8 million for a RM600,000 grant.
Having RM3.8 million in your bank account easily qualifies you as an HNWI (High Net Worth Individual) (Source: Securities Commission Malaysia). Being a HNWI opens up a lot of investment opportunities because you should know what you are getting into before investing.
How did the scammer convince a HNWI to part with that huge sum of money?
So, I decided to play along…
The scammer then proceeded to explain the grant to me, and I played along. Here are the details of the “grant” if you are interested:
Then, the scammer introduced me to another person, Kimberly Prost, and asked me to contact her via WhatsApp.
Well, I wouldn’t want to disclose my phone number to him. But I really want to find out as much as possible and share it here on my blog.
Then I remembered, I just changed my phone number recently (yes, I changed my number, if you can’t reach me, please drop me a PM) and I decided to use my old number to drop a message to “Attorney General Kimberly Prost”.
So, after I clicked on the link, it led me to a phone number from the USA, +1(909)2791885. It is a different number than the one that scammed the businessman.
(Yeah, I believe they have plenty of phone numbers at their disposal.)
Before dropping her a message, I looked at her profile.
Can you spot any red flags? Please leave a comment below if you found one.
Then, I drop her a message saying that I was introduced by my friend. It is funny that it felt like she was expecting my message. If you look at the screenshot below, I didn’t even introduce myself.
An Authorised Attorney, in charged of a substantial grant from the IMF, would just reply to a random number from Malaysia without knowing who is on the other side of the chat… Another RED FLAG.
Anyways, she asked me to pay “full attention”, which is a weird thing to say over text, oh well…
Honestly, at this point, I am worried that she knows I know…
She then introduces herself and also the details of the grant… bla… bla… bla… here’s the screenshot for your reading pleasure.
Then she asks me to be honest with her so that she can help me with the grant.
Phishing (Pronounced as Fishing)
Phishing is an act to scam victims to provide their personal information such as bank account number and credit card information.
So, Kimberly Prost wanted me to be honest and shortly after, sent me a whole list of questionnaires that is needed to apply for the grant.
Looking at the list, some of the questions are designed for scammers to guess your security word/phrase for your passwords.
- How many of you still use your DOB as your password?
- Came across any banks asking for your mum’s name in case you forgot your password?
- Did anyone ask for the name of your next of kin during a phone verification process?
These are very common in many verification processes, hence that is why these scammers are asking for the information.
At this point, I am now contemplating should I continue to play along because she wanted me to send her a snapshot of my Photo ID. Unlike my phone number, I don’t have a spare ID lying around.
Anyway, I tried my luck by filling up the “form” without the photo ID. I created a new Gmail account and used my old business address in case they tried to search for my name and find out more about me at this stage.
Oh, speaking of address, I discovered that the grant money is sent by mail… Cool!
In my form, I left the Monthly Income portion empty because I thought this would be more realistic if I am truly a victim.
I then tried to get a validation from the first scammer (the fake Instagram account) and discovered that the said account had been deactivated/deleted.
To be continued…?
As I am not willing to send my real ID, I am getting my sister to help me edit the details on my ID so that I can find out more about how these scammers operate. Unfortunately, she has other work to do and can only help me tonight.
So, we’ll see how it goes, no promises.
My thoughts so far…
At this stage, the red flags are pretty obvious to me. However, that is because I have some basic understanding of online frauds and scams.
But, for an elderly that is not well versed with the internet and believes all information on the internet is real, coupled with a bad economy and fear of failing, I can see how some people will fall prey to scams like this.
It is sad to see comments on the internet condemning the 78-year-old man to be stupid and naïve, but we really have to understand from their perspective.
To combat scams, the only way is to spread the awareness and educate our friends and family on how scams operate. The more people know about it, the harder it is for scammers to run their operations.
If you find this article helpful, please share it with the people around you. If you are feeling the pressure from the bad economy, I also wrote about other articles on how to engage a financial planner, and how to claim your unclaimed money.
Drop a comment if there is something you would like me to cover, it is very much appreciated.