Listen up, what you’re about to read is my first-hand encounter with a scam artist from Hong Kong and hopefully you’ll do the right thing by warning your family and friends before these unscrupulous crooks have a field day with their next targets! Warning: extremely long post!
Day 1—The Introduction
Just under a week ago, I received a phone call from a lady who claimed she represents Hong Kong TachAsia Leisure Centre and she had called me (at my home number!) to conduct a market survey. First thing I’d noticed was her strong mainland Chinese accent which she later said she’s from Taiwan and had just returned to her birth place, Hong Kong to work for this organisation. The questions she asked were basic enough to warrant an innocent knee-jerk response such as my name, marital status, profession and so forth–the typical answers to a typical market survey questionnaire. This was Day 1.
Day 2—The Follow Up
The same lady called again and pretended she didn’t get my name spelt correctly and she needed to ensure their ‘client’ database is accurate. After ‘successful completion’ I was asked to (and she insisted that I) make a note of my lucky number A56118 and added that the company was doing this research to provide data which would lead up to the opening of their subsidiary office in Brunei. At this point, asking her questions concerning where this new office was going to open and when returned no useful or meaningful answer.
The caller persisted with yet another phone call and this time in her further attempt to create an atmosphere of trust and credibility, she said to watch a programme to air on one of the Astro channels between 5—6 pm. Their company allegedly hosted a grand lucky draw where Hong Kong celebrity Andy Lau would officiate the event (see the connection between my LUCKY number and where this is leading to?). I did not bother to find out if the programme was for real as I had more important things on my mind.
Day 4—Feeling Lucky
The caller delightfully rang (by now, I had gotten quiet sick of her voice and the frequency of her calls were like clock work—devilishly predictable). This is the best part, she announced that I was one of the very fortunate winners out of 5 other winners to have won second prize of B$67,500 cash. First prize was a BMW that had been won by someone in mainland China. She said there were two other winners in Brunei, one in Singapore and another in Malaysia all of whom had also won cash prizes of the same amount. What do you think happened next, after this alleged great news? She needed my bank account number so she could wire me my money. No harm here in giving her my account number. By now, this was becoming too good a news to be remotely true! Here, she ended the conversation with a heart-warming congratulatory note. She added (with a touch of envy) that Bruneians are so lucky to have a generous Sultan who looks after his people.
Day 5—The Catch!
She called to inform me that there is a temporary road-block to getting my money wired to Brunei. She continued that the Hong Kong government required all wire transfers be verified as a measure to curb the rampant money laundering cases (quite the irony!). In order to quickly facilitate this (this is where it got very interesting), I had to have a letter to certify that I was a legit winner and in order to obtain this letter, I would need to wire a sum equivalent to 4.3% of my prize money to a legal entity appointed by them. I was given two transfer options: Telegraphic Transfer or Western Union, the latter of which is quicker and I would receive the money sooner too! Sensing my hesitation and stammering between words, she said I needed to make a decision soon on order for her to secure a a busy legal representative … moments later, I agreed with the telegraphic transfer option and she was able to miraculously give me a name of an independent rep who isn’t associated to her organization in any way. At this point, I was close to puking at the extend of her lies which after almost a week, seemed no end!
Later part of Day 5 – Revelation
By lunch time, she had spilled more than she should have and at this juncture, in order to get my money (B$2,900) it had to be a bank account to transfer wire the money to and this individual was: TAN YAU BOON whose bank account number 0136 0010 3125 21 had an account with CIMB BANK in Malaysia. She also reminded me to call her (a Ms Lim Mei Hua at Hong Kong number 00852 30658450). Armed with this information, I immediately fired an email to CIMB Bank. Within the next business day I received the following response …
Dear Jan Shim,
Thank you for your email.
We wish to inform you that we have forwarded your email to our higher level management for further investigation (under suspected fraud case). Please be extra careful and do not transfer funds to any unknown parties.
We highly appreciate on your action to highlight this matter to us for our investigation and further action. Thank you.
Regards and have a great day.
and within a matter of hours following their first response, came …
Dear Jan Shim,
In relation to our previous email as below, we would like to notify you that this is a scam. Thus, please do not transfer any amount to the mentioned person (TAN YAU BOON) and other unknown parties.
Regards and have a great day.
By now, the lady kept calling to find out if I had made the remittance. I no longer entertain her calls and usually let the phone ring till it stopped. Isn’t it scary that you could be sweet-talked into being $2,900 worse off in just a week? With online phone listings and directory services, if anything, it has made these scams against unsuspecting individuals more rampant!
On Nov 24, 2007 UNITED DAILY NEWS picked up my story and translated it to Chinese with the hope of reaching the Chinese speaking community that the syndicate is targeting. Click on image to read the full article.
** NEWSFLASH! A housewife in Malaysia was cheated of RM500,000 by a syndicate as reported by Berita Harianin the Malay language.
- Thanks to an contact in Hong Kong who confirmed the government imposes no such requirement for outgoing funds, at least to her understanding, for the amount in question.
- A Chinese version of this post translated by UNITED DAILY NEWS to reach the Chinese community everywhere. Published on Nov 24, 2007