I’m smart. I mean, I know I’m a smart person; at least. Well, at least some people said that I’m smart… (syiok wor, kasi angkat sikit).
Not that stupid la at least, OK? At least I am smart enough to see if something is a scam. Yet, I was almost scammed. Just yesterday, despite of all the red flags that came up. Almost scammed.
That left me somehow quite depressed, for a while. Until after I watched the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” last night. But the movie is another story.
This particular scam that I almost “kena”, was very elaborate, to the scammer(s) credit. (Almost) Very slick, apart from the tell tales that typically someone with keen eyes would be able to detect. And sometimes, instinct plays a strong role too.
Instinct, however, could or would be overruled by greed.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of posting on LinkedIn in the last year or so; longer on Facebook. Quite a few of my postings had been noticed and had quite a few responses and reactions from the LinkedIn community whether they are my connections or not; ie I had responses from 3rd-degree connections. This led to views on my profile and some would request a connection.
I was quite choosy when it came to selecting whom I connect with. I’d go through the profile, the about, the experience etc. I’d only connect if I was comfortable with the profile. That’d mean decent professional or semi-professional photos, write-ups that made sense, decent experience or education and very important if I feel that I can help or make some difference in some small ways (at least) to the requester’s life – professional or personal.
As my followers know, my posts were typically on Malaysian food, and Malaysian businesses, some sharing my experience in selling and business development, and maybe some musings. I hope that there were some pointers or tips there.
A request came in from someone who claimed to be a Malaysian living in Australia. He wrote on his profile that he was employed by a well-known audit/consulting firm – in the real estate division.
PING! 1st flag.
But it looked like a decent photo and a decent story in the profile. Accepted. Some months later, this person requested my resume. Apparently, an oilfield service company was looking for a country manager for Malaysia. Based on my experience, fair enough. He gave me the name of the company as well as the founder/chairman of the company. I checked out the chairman’s profile on LinkedIn. The profile photo looked so much like Zig Ziglar!
PING! 2nd flag.
But then again, the rest of the profile was not too shabby. Well, he’s the chairman, probably too busy to put in the details in the profile. While the company’s website looked impressive, I couldn’t find a single employee of this company on LinkedIn! Even for the chairman, the company’s name had a typo…
PING! 3rd and 4th flags.
A few weeks later I received a letter of employment, a non-disclosure agreement and there was another agreement via email from the chairman himself! I ignored the whole email as there were no calls or interviews scheduled and suddenly I was appointed as their country manager??? I messaged the guy in Australia to ask what was this all about? He replied that I was selected to manage this company’s investment in Malaysia. The investment funds will be channelled via an offshore account in Australia.
This raised my concern about money laundering!
PING! 5th flag.
A few days later, I received another message via LinkedIn from this “Malaysian” in Australia that I will be connected to investors from Russia and Ukraine (after the war started) as they wanted to channel their funds to safe countries. A connection request came in from a voluptuous Ukrainian lady!
PING! 6th flag.
I did not accept that connection request and told this Malaysian in Australia that I’d like to see further information and some details that make sense before I accept the engagement/appointment. He then went on about investment this, investment that…
PING! 7th flag.
Not having received a response to the email, the “chairman” then resorted to sending the agreements now via WhatsApp. Toying a bit, I requested that my appointment is via my company as a legal entity here for tax and expenditures purposes. He agreed and made the amendments. At this point, I asked for my sister’s help since she is an expert on the anti-money-laundering law (AMLA). I asked her to check the terms and conditions to see if there is anything that might point out that.
As it was slickly done (almost), she said after a few rounds of reviewing the agreements, no issue with AMLA. However, there’s something really odd. She searched the worldwide companies registration, and the name of the company, in various permutations, couldn’t be found.
PING! 8th flag.
Meanwhile, I searched on LinkedIn and Google for the names of the three signatories to the agreements. None!
PING! 9th flag.
At this point, I sort of confirmed that this was a scam. But greed got onto me.
The salary stated was around US$120,000 per year. After withholding tax and local income tax, that would be around RM25,000 per month! Besides, I would be getting 3% of the sum invested (into companies which I’d recommend, and I already had a few lined up!)
So, tally that up and I’d have a very decent income! More motorbikes!
After signing the agreements I had to set up an offshore bank account in Australia at ANZ Bank. I was to contact a banker there who would facilitate this. An email came with the details on the “opening of an offshore bank account”.
Again, I looked up my trusted buddy, Mr LinkedIn. A variation of the name given turned up as a legal firm in the US. A few solicitors etc. But no one in Australia!
PING! 10th flag.
The first number that I saw there almost gave me a heart attack! A sum of US$300,000,000.00 would be deposited into the account, for my disposal/investment in the selected companies. Come on, who in the right mind, would give you US$300,000,000.00 without having met you?
PING! 11th flag.
I’d have to supply some IDs and documents to confirm my address, which is normal in opening most bank accounts. I had opened two bank accounts in the US during my Schlumberger days and another in New Zealand. Nothing funny or fancy there.
But the next number finally sounded the ALARM!!!
I’d have to deposit US$5500 to initiate the account. Then the US$300m would be at my disposal. Just a small amount right? So that I’d have US$300m to invest? What’s US$5.5k vs US$300m? Nothing that I couldn’t sort out. Just needed less than RM25k to access a whole lot of money. Sometimes, not having money, is a blessing in disguise. I simply do not have 5.5k, even if that is in Ringgit Malaysia. If in Rupiah, maybe…
All the “characters” are now blocked on LinkedIn and Whatsapp. Arrrrrrrrrgggggg!!!
So yes, the depression was caused by this conflict of being smart/stupid/greedy at the same time. I guess now I have a clue as to why smart lawyers, engineers, architects,s and whatnots, are conned of their life savings to the tune of hundreds of thousands of ringgit! I wonder how could these smart professional people get conned.
Yesterday, I almost became one. The Universe let me experience the process, without losing money.
The low flying scenes in Top Gun Maverick last night helped me to take my mind off this. I felt like I was the one who was doing the manoeuvring and executing 10G last night and almost blacked out!
Be careful, if it’s just too good to be true. PM me if you want to know the names that were involved, for you to be careful.
Source: The Anatomy Of A Scam