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01 Februari 2009

ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE

NST
1/2/2009




CRUDE oil is down to below US$50 (RM180) a barrel from a peak of over US$150 some months ago but no one has had the audacity to peddle the Petronas Twin Towers.
In 1925, Victor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower to an unsuspecting scrap metal dealer who thought he was on to a winning deal when he read in the newspapers about how expensive it was to maintain the landmark. But there is no lack of such Lustig-type individuals who have come up with ingenious schemes to get money-minded Malaysians to part with their hard-earned cash, like the infamous "black money" scam, scratch-and-win lotteries and countless fraudulent Ponzi or pyramid schemes, dubbed locally as skim cepat kaya.Money makes money but the man in the street must know that it is usually his money that makes money for others, like the case of over 50 people, professionals and pensioners among them, who invested more than RM1 million over the last two years for a kiosk that was to function as a post office. They have since lodged reports with the National Consumer Complaints Centre. The power of avarice has been such that some had even resorted to using credit cards or going into debt to come up with the RM12,000-plus deposit for "an offer that is too good to miss and is available today only". Even personal loans through "recommended" banks could be arranged.Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement division director-general Mohd Roslan Mahayudin said 138 complaints of money-making rip-offs had been received between 2007 and 2009. The ministry has 17 cases against 10 companies, and last month four men were charged in court for carrying out direct selling without a valid licence. Civil servants have not been spared the get-rich-quick mentality either and the Public Service Department issued a circular against it last month. Even Cuepacs president Omar Osman had been approached to invest RM30,000 in a con job.While action against the scammers can be taken under the Contracts Act, Trade Descriptions Act, Direct Sales Act, Payment Systems Act and other laws, the "investor" will not easily get his money back or find remedy at the consumer claims tribunal. He does not fall within the definition of "consumer" as he is deemed to have entered into a business. While we wait for Bank Negara to tighten the rules on credit facilities being extended to dubious companies, or laws to be passed to hold credit card issuers liable, people must bear in mind the oft-repeated advice that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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