Case in point: Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd. About 1,065 gold traders had tried to sue the company for RM146mil, claiming that the company had failed to pay them the monies and gold products that were owed to them. As reported by The Star in October 2016, 11 people and Genneva were acquitted of more than 1,000 counts of illegal deposit taking and money laundering charges. No prizes for guessing who has the last laugh.
Scams masquerading as ridiculously rewarding investment schemes have been around for as long as anyone can remember. Ever heard of terms such as ‘Ponzi’, ‘pyramid’, and ‘multi-level marketing (MLM)’? We thought you might. Unfortunately, it seems as though history is doomed to repeat itself many times over, since Malaysians don’t seem to learn from the mistakes of those who have fallen before them.
There has been a spate of news reports regarding the unravelling of numerous money game companies, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering substantial amounts of losses. The common denominator in all these cases: charming and charismatic people who are skilled at sweet-talking through their perfect, chemically-whitened teeth.
The recent one whose pants were metaphorically on fire is Johnson Lee, founder of Penang-based scheme, JJPTR (JJ Poor to Rich). He made the headlines when he claimed that a ‘hacking job’ on his company’s network caused its investors to suffer a total of USD400mil (roughly RM1.7bil) in losses.
Penang isn’t done with unpleasant surprises as two more popular financial schemes have also been red-flagged by Bank Negara Malaysia: MBI International Sdn Bhd and Mface International Sdn Bhd, both of which are subsidiaries of MBI Group International.
We find it amusingly ironic that in one of the latest news reports, the founder of Richway Global Venture (RGV) – who goes by the username of ‘Vanguard of Farmers’ on the WeChat app – was directly quoted as saying, “If you’re so worried, why did you invest in the first place? It is either you win or lose. Please give me some time to sort out this problem, and it is not time for me to run away with your money.”
Now for starters, he’s right. To those who knew what they were getting into, it’s a little too late to be crying over spilt milk, don’t you think? Secondly, he said that it wasn’t the right time for him to disappear with all your hard-earned cash. He may have been planning to do so before his company’s second anniversary, a’la JJPTR’s dinner celebration, but perhaps certain circumstances dictated otherwise.
This begs the question: why do people keep falling for these scams, even when billions of Ringgit have vanished already? It’s safe to assume that if you are still investing in money games (or thinking of it), then you’re beyond help. Here are the three types of people who lie under the Umbrella of Idiocy:
1) First – The Vulnerable
They are the ones who are in desperate need of cash, usually because something critical has happened that puts a strain on their finances. This gullible Penangite hawker who lost her son’s medical funds to the latest money game scheme is one such example.
Thinking that she could get some returns for a few months at least, so that she will be able to pay for the monthly kidney dialysis treatments that her son needs, she was caught by surprise when the scheme collapsed very quickly. What’s more, she had involved her daughter-in-law, relatives and friends in the scheme as well, where they lost a total of about RM10,000.
2) Second – The Misguided
Here lie the hard-core believers. These people don’t have the proper level of education, either financially or technologically. With technology progressing at such a rapid rate, many are not aware that graphics and documents can be easily doctored so that they appear to be legitimate.
An investor in BTC I-system (another dubious money game company), Tommy Tang, is the perfect poster child of a Misguided. He says, “Everything looked so real as the WeChat administrator even showed daily charts of the market value of bitcoin in Ringgit. It was easy money.”
There is also a pressing need for people to be educated on how to spot realistic financial gains, so that they're not suckered into enticing money games. They require guidance on how to manage their finances properly, so as to avoid situations such as household debt and bankruptcies, which will lead to them resorting to desperate measures.
3) Lastly – The Snakes
These sort of people are so consumed by their own selfish greed, they think that these money games are a viable option to make a quick buck. They’re looking to increase their wealth in the shortest timeframe possible, and more often than not, they were seduced into signing up by the lavishly luxurious lifestyles of those who had previously ‘made it big’.
They enter these schemes knowing what it entails, and then profit at the expense of those who trust them the most, usually their relatives and friends. One of the investors in JJPTR, Alex (not the real name), voiced out what is probably on many Snakes’ minds, “Greed is what motivates me. The desire to make ‘fast money’ drives me, as well as most others, I suppose, to put money in the scheme.”
A recent poll conducted by The Star’s R.AGE proved how sad the situation can be when trust is misplaced, as 60% of the respondents said that they would not report their relatives and friends who were involved in these scams.
As one money game player, who goes by the name of Leon Hong, claims: “Many of those who invested in such schemes knew that they were scams from the beginning. But we were always told that we are among the ‘pioneers’ and the plan would not go bust so early.”
It cannot be said that these companies operate in secrecy and that the public barely understands the inner workings of such schemes, which leads to people being conned easily. It’s not rocket science; we have explained how it works and its origins. The sooner the public understands that there is no such thing as ‘win-win’ or ‘easy money’, the faster these money game companies will go out of business.