Property is another favourite of the scammers, especially when you target overseas buyers. In the past, British and Irish citizens have suffered at the hands of the timeshare scammers who sold them fake property timeshare apartments in Spain. Later, when timeshares went out of fashion, but a significant number of owners still held on to them, another set of fraudsters came along convincing them to sell them. In each case, people got burnt and lost their hard-earned cash.
This year, Chinese nationals have been the target of a property scam that seemingly originate in Malaysia. Of course, the criminals behind it could be located anywhere and be of any nationality, but they have used Malaysia as the country of enticement.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) received information in early 2017 that Chinese nationals in Malaysia were being targeted by various multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes. The people who contacted the MCA said that millions of Chinese were being encouraged to join the MLM schemes that involve Malaysian businesses.
Two types of MLM property scam
The scams have been operating on two levels: there are those targeting people in China and the other targets Chinese in Malaysia. In the first case, Chinese victims were sold fake properties in Malaysia. But, when they arrive din Malaysia to view their investment, they discovered the properties didn’t exist. The fancy brochures portraying lovely holiday homes were a complete fiction. In fact, in one scheme, the developer had sold properties on the Bumiputera lands, which are a reserve and can’t be developed in any way, the head of MCA’s Public Services and Complaints Department told the local press. As a result, the buyers have lost millions of Ringgit.
Then there are the scams hitting Chinese living in Malaysia. These are operated by local MLM businesses, which are reportedly growing in number. MCA’s Michael Chong said that the victims felt secure in their investments into these MLMs because the fraudsters used a number of high profile VIPs to promote the schemes and created an illusion of it being a secure business opportunity.
These schemes also appeal to people’s greed by offering apparently fantastic returns for all investments and with a slick sales team, they managed to talk people into parting with their money. Unfortunately, once people started to realise that it was all a con, it was too late for the authorities to do anything, which is the case with most scams. The people who start them are long gone and have moved onto a new scam by the time enough victims realise they have lost their money.
Check before writing a cheque
The MCA has offered a sage piece of advice that applies anywhere in the world: if you are offered a scheme that involved buying a personal property abroad, check the development details with the local embassy representing the country concerned before you part with any money. If it is a legitimate development, the plans will be registered with the relevant government departments. If it is a scam, it won’t appear on the register. And, remember the saying: if something appears too good to be true, it probably is.