In these tough times, many have “invested” their hard-earned money in dubious get-rich-quick ‘money games’ or pyramid schemes, which probably carry high risks for those coming in at the tail end of the “game”.
From casual conversations, you can quickly get an idea of the big players in town, especially in a place like Penang.
These schemes may even have their own pseudo-currency of sorts, which participants can use to buy all kinds of stuff, and not just cheap stuff. At least one scheme that I have heard of has probably raked in hundreds of millions of ringgit of “investments”.
This phenomenon is taking place at a time when the ringgit has weakened and people are looking for higher returns – and sometimes falling for questionable “investments”.
Look at how they play on emotions:
How do we protect ordinary people from dubious schemes while allowing genuine investment funds to operate?
The other day, a workman was carrying out some repairs in my home. Out of curiosity I asked him if he had heard of one such scheme. His face lit up, and he replied, “I myself have invested in that!”
Said one observer who has been following the emergence of these “money games”: “It could hit us hard, if these games get too big. Many young people have got involved, made money, have stopped wanting to work for a living. It will be a social problem in the future if one of them was to collapse.”
One such scheme, JJPTR, is reported to be in trouble now. And there is an outpouring of anger on the internet. Check out this online forum. Apparently, they are claiming that the software they use was hacked. Anyway, check out the JJPTR Malaysia Facebook page.
JJPTR was only added to Bank Negara’s list of unauthorised websites and companies on 24 February 2017. (A bit late in the day, no?) So far the list has 288 companies!
Perhaps some might think if political leaders can get rich quick through dubious means, why not the ordinary people try it?
Maybe it is not just greed alone – some of these schemes promise returns of 20 per cent – but many ordinary people also feeling worried and insecure about the future and desperate to have savings that earn them sufficient returns to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living, removal of subsidies and the bleak economic outlook. These people then become easy prey.
One Penangite shared how such people get hooked by those already in the “game”: “They will tell you they want to share. They have already made a lot of money and they realise you are in a predicament, going through hard times, trying to make ends meet, and your FD is not earning much interest, prices are going up.
“So they’ll say, ‘I understand what you are going through. These are tough times. I already went through the same thing. But now I can manage. I have made enough to quit my job and send my two kids to London. The game worked for me. I made money, this is an easy way to make money.’
“Even if in reality their money is stuck, they won’t say it as they are trying to cash out of the scheme. The gullible ones will fall for such talk.
“Someone I know said he managed to make some some money and cash out of the scheme, but he is not sure about his friend whom he introduced to the scheme.”
Recently, I asked a CEO of a Penang-based company if he or his company would get involved in such schemes. His answer was telling: “No, I prefer to sleep well at night.”
It seems we never learn. Geneva Gold should be still fresh on our minds, even if we may have forgotten earlier dubious schemes. (And then there is the property speculation game. Many have forgotten about the 1998 property slump.)
My question is, are Bank Negara and other regulatory agencies aware of such “money games”? And if so, what is their position on these “games” and new forms of “coins”, crypto-currencies and pseudo-currencies? (Last I heard, only ringgit and sen were legal tender in Malaysia.)
What is Bank Negara doing beyond issuing alerts? Do their alerts include all the big “money game” players?
If they are not aware, I am puzzled – as these “games” and schemes are all the rage in town – and many have “invested” their money, perhaps not fully aware of the risks involved.
If you have any stories about these “money games” or those who have “invested” in them, please share with us.