Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gullible Malaysians

As far back as 1965 I have seen how the common folks were duped into participating into an easy money making scheme called Strike Roulette. It was a simple scheme involving buying a form with some 25 names preprinted on ot at RM5.00. Each participant must send RM5.00 to the name on the top of a list. Another RM5 must be sent to the organiser. All payments must be made using postal order. The idea is to recruit more participants and you can see your name being put on the list and watch it climb to the top. The ultimate is to see your name topping the list and start receiving the RM5 postal orders. In total you could receive a total of RM125. A princely sum from an investment of RM15 and you could recoup the RM5 paid for the form when you sell the one form given to you after registration.

It was a pyramid system. As a pyramid system it will work only when the downlines could replicate the same act. Any failure by the downlines will mean less money will be received. More often you will be buying the forms for your own use in order to reap multiple benefits.

Two of my elder sisters were involved then. I could see the scheme grew when more people in my village were involved. They were easly convinced when shown the postal orders received by the earlier players. The quality of the forms too improved from cheap duplicating papers to colour machine printed ones. The organizer was based in Kuala Lumpur with bona fide registered office and team of staff.

Then came the heart rending reality when the government declared that the scheme was illegal. The company's officed was raided and machines confiscated. The organizers were charged for illegal deposit taking activities. Thus ended the scheme and many people lost their investment including my two sisters who were almost reaching the very top of the pyramid and soon to receive the strings of postal orders.

Everybody forget after some times. Some 20 years later a man by the name of Pak Man Telo started another investment scheme. Cash were collected with the promise that immediate high return will be paid out to the account of the investor. The return rate was ludicrously high and the investors naver questioned how it was possible to get such return. All they cared was they did get the payments or at least they saw others got theirs. Greed set in and they reinvest any monies received from the scheme.

At the same time other similar schemes cropped up. Big names were a prized catch to the operators to lend credibilty to the scheme. Such names would be floated around to entice others to join in. Beside monetary rewads, cars were also offered to participants who was required to make a downpayment and the installment will be deducted from the income to be received. My wife's uncle and brother was some of the family member who participated. Even when Pak Man Telo's operation was busted and payments to investors were stopped, newer schemes still managed to be introduced. People who made losses from Pak Man Telo's scheme joined the new ones to recoup losses from the earlier ones. Such is the stupidity of man.

The year 2006 saw the introduction to Kelantan of another investment scheme using the internet as a tool. No more papers were involved and everything was done online. All you need was a Maybank account to facilitate transactions. The modus operandi was the same. High and fast return. To lend credence that it was an overseas operation, transactions were done in dollars. Nobody could tell exactly which dollar currency since it wasn't exactly specified. It was presumed as US dollars as the conversion rate used was then about 3.5 ringgit when you cash out but when you cash in it was RM3.8. It didnt matter that the USD was being traded at lower rates but their rate were always constant.

To the ordinary simple folks the internet is the ultimate medium. They were shown on the computers how their investment goes. It was the system who did it and the agents were never involved in the computations on how the income were derived. All in the sysytem thay said. All you need to do is check your account online to see how your investment was growing.

The propagators of the scheme was always a local of the area and very much known to the investors. That was how confidence was built. Another way was to recruit the village's respected figures to invest and he will of course speak well of the scheme and how he had been getting his return without fail. In my own village they managed to get the Imam of the mosque himself to invest. Others saw the scheme as 'halal' upon the Imam's involvement. Never suspecting that the Imam was as greedy as they were when it came to making some money.

Again it was the governments intervention that halted the scheme. The government declared that only certain investment schemes were legal. Most that involved the village folks were deemed illegal. Many lost their investments and went after the local agents. Those who persistently asked for their money to be returned either get them fully and some partially.

Come another twenty years the whole fiasco will be forgotten and the whole scam will be repeated. As long as we are gullible, we will forever become victims to such scams.

It is a wonder why the government took so long to act. Signs of the scam surfacing were too obvious. If the scam was nipped in the bud, not so many people would have lost their money.

The latter scams involving the internet were obvious scams. Scams such as inherited fortunes in Africa and winning lotteries that you didnt even participate in were too obvious and yet gullible people can still fall for them.

So much is the greed of man that they cant even rationalise things when it comes to easy money.


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