Nov 14, 2014

How to make a Suspected Scammer Wash Dishes at a Restaurant

This post was first posted on Recollections of a Money Manager during March 2014. Recollections is an online diary of my journey in the wealth management industry since 2005 and I decided to turn that site private since I prefer to keep the musings to myself. However, there is quite a few interesting articles which I thought I should repost at Xeolyenomics. Here is one of my favorite article.

Today, I had an interesting meeting with a suspected scam artist.

The story began with a phone call with an unknown caller ID at 11am, Monday morning.

"Hello, is this Xeo Lye?"

"Yes, this is he. How can I help you?"

"Hello, I am Adam and I met you some time back."

"Ehhh, Okie. I am sorry that I don't really recall meeting you. Where did we meet?"

"I have your ex company name card. Are you still a financial advisor?"

"Yes I am. So how can I help you?"

"I am looking for some financial assistance. Can I meet you for lunch today at Coffee Club Raffles Place?"

"Sorry, I already have an appointment. However about 11am tomorrow at the same place?"

"Yes sure. See you there."

Now this is really weird. Financial advisers usually do not get calls from strangers asking for financial services. Normally, we are the ones doing the bugging.

My guess is that the person probably has an alternate agenda for meeting up with me, but it never hurts to have an open mind.

That morning, Adam even reminded me via an SMS to confirm the meeting. He must be very eager to meet me.

Adam is a middle aged, soft-spoken, slim Chinese gentleman decked up in a long white sleeve shirt and a yellow tie. His hair is nicely gelled like Chow Yun Fat  in Shanghai Grand. He is obviously dressed up like a successful person ready to impress.

Who in the world dresses up to impress a financial adviser! My alert radar pings again.

After the usual pleasantry, I ordered a pot of tea while Adam ordered a sandwich and an iced mocha.

The waitress was giving me strange looks as she served our orders. Something feels wrong here...

He started to ask me more about my work and what kind of products do I carry and why did I leave my ex-company.

Wanting to find out more what his agenda was, I asked Adam what does he does for a living.

"Ahh, You know those online job searching portals? I manage one of those companies in China."

"Speaking of that, we haven't exchange name cards yet. Let me give you my new name card since you have my ex-company one."
The +186 country code does not exist...
Wow, Chairman and CEO of a China based company.

Wait a minute....

Is that how you spell Adam? with an "s" behind?

Where is the logo of the company?

Where is the company address?

Global Online Job Portal Corporation?!? Strange company name. Never heard of it....

Which Chairman & CEO of a big private company email uses Gmail? On top of the, the email is totally weird and unprofessional. Come on!!!

By now, my scam alert radar is ringing off the hook. Without further ado, I went straight for the blood.

"So Adam, how can I help you? How much money you are looking to invest? Any particular asset class you are looking at?"

"Actually, I need help. I have some money stuck in UK whereby I need an activation fee to unlock. I need your help with the activation fee, after which, I will invest the money with you."

"Alrightttt. How much activation fee you are looking at?"

"600 dollars."

"Okieeee, that doesn't sound like a big amount. I am sure you will be able to fork out the money yourself. Else, you can always look for your banker for a line of credit. I am sure they will be more than happy to lend you $600."

"Oh, I have some cashflow problem right now. You see, I was scammed of $300,000 in Malaysia a while back. They called me pretending to be my family members and I gave them $300,000. They were very convincing. When I tried to get the money back from me, they attacked me. See this scar on my face here and here?"

I thought the scars look more like wrinkles....

"I had to undergo plastic surgery to look normal again."

"Ehh, I got a month old 5 inch scar here at my neck also. Wanna hear my story?"

He waved at me dismissively and continued his story.

"Than my mother got very sick. She is hospitalized. And now I have my money locked up in UK due to all the administrative stuff. Once I have paid my activation fee, I will have money and will be able to invest with you!"

"Riggghhhhttttt, so how much money you have locked inside there? I hope that it is a reasonable amount as it seems like you really need the money."

Adam replied primly, "Sorry, I am not comfortable to disclose my business dealing with you."

"You know, one of the things that I do to help my client, is to help them evaluate their investment portfolio. Over the years, I have encountered many investment scams. If you give me more information, I can help you do a short evaluation of the investment that is currently locked up and help you see if it is a scam or not. I am quite sure that after being scammed of $300,000, you wouldn't want to be scammed again! Right?"

"Yes, but I am interested in investing with you, and today, I am here to listen to see how YOU can help me make money."

"Adam, I think the best way that I can help you right now is to evaluate this investment which you had in UK. I even got my iPad with me. I can help you do an evaluation now! No worries, I won't charge you a fee for this."

I took out my iPad, opened up Safari an waited expectantly for a name.

"You know, I was scammed once in Malaysia. I opened an Africa account which they promised me a good return, and even issued me an African bank credit card!"

Taking out his Mont Blanc (Real or Fake??) Wallet, he whipped out a strange looking credit card from an unknown African bank. He continued, "They promise me a substantial a amount of money back and I have been crediting $100 dollars every month and so far, I have only received a measly $100 ringgit."

"Okie, I hope that you have learn your lessons and stopped remitting money to them. Now back to the investment you are talking about. Can you share a bit more information on that?"

"Aiya, it is too complicated for me to share. The most important thing you need to know, is that I am interested in investing with you."

"Adam, if what your story is true, I need to do my due diligence on your source of wealth if you should want to invest with me. It is a MAS requirement. So if you are unable to tell me more about the investment product which is stuck in UK, it will be impossible for me to justify to MAS the source of your wealth."

"Oh! When did MAS come up with this ruling? Tell me more about it."

"My point is Adam, I am not comfortable with your deal. I suspect that you may be involved in an illegal scheme, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. I may be able to get help for you if you share with me more about the company that is withholding your money."

Adam, probably feeling frustrated at this point of time, retorted,"That is my business! So are you going to lend me $600 so that I can invest with you!"

"Honestly speaking Adam, I am not that desperate for business. On top of that, you give me no reason to trust you and I hope that u are not involved in any illegal activity. In any case, I will NOT lend you $600."

"But I will be able to invest a HUGE sum of money with you if you help me!"

"Sorry, not interested. Look. I have to rush for another appointment at 12pm. I hope that you find someone who can help you and wish you success in retrieving the money stuck in UK."

Laying down $10 for my $7 tea, I stood up to leave.

"Wait wait!" Adam anxiously said, "Aren't you going to pay for my portion?"

"I don't see why I should pay for your portion."

"But aren't financial advisers suppose to pay for the meals of their prospects?"

"Ehh, not really. When is there ever this rule?"

"But I do not have a single cent on me?"

"Than why do you choose to meet at Coffee Club and order an expensive $30 lunch if you do not have any money with you? Are you trying to scam me of lunch?"

"But I will get into trouble with Coffee Club if you do not pay for me!?"

"Is that so? Good luck than."

I stride out of the restaurant for my next appointment at Tanjong Pagar.

Afterward: I received a call from Adam later at 5pm which I did not bother to answer. He is probably going to hurl vulgarities at me and it will probably make this encounter more interesting. However, I am not interested in being verbally abused, so I did not bother.  

Update: Apparently, I am not the only person that he approached. He also approached my Sister and her colleagues, who are working in an investment firm, and tried to sell them the same story. She did a blog post about it:

I think this gentlemen may need to seek medical treatment based on some of the things that he posted on his FB.... 

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