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Saturday, 1 April 2017

IT started with a “hi” and if I had been naive, it would have ended with me naked and eventually bankrupt.

Beware that moment of weakness

Chong (right) speaking at a press conference for Lim. - HAZIM FAUZI/The Star
Chong (right) speaking at a press conference for Lim. - HAZIM FAUZI/The Star
IT started with a “hi” and if I had been naive, it would have ended with me naked and eventually bankrupt.

“Hi,” said Julian Lee on Tuesday night via Facebook Messenger.
Julian, also known as Young Ju, had friended me on Facebook.
Based on her photo profile, she looked like a 20-something Korean singer. Her profile states that she’s from Seoul, South Korea.
She studied business manage­ment at Sungkyunkwan University. She’s a vice-executive at a family-owned business.
I had accepted her as she seemed to be a genuine person. We had 24 mutual friends on Facebook.
They were all my fellow Sabahans, including three assemblymen, eight politicians, a history lecturer, a Datuk businessman, a newspaper executive, an ex-top cop and a maritime security adviser.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hi, how are you?” said Julian.
“Fine. You?” I said.
“Same here!” she said. “How old are you, again?”
“25,” I lied. “You?”
“I am 27,” she said. “Are you married?”
“No,” I lied. “Are you married?”
“I am very much single, dear!” she replied. “Still studying? What do you do for a living?”
“I’m an investment banker,” I lied. “You?”
“Nice! I am working on (sic) my dad’s business,” she said. “You are from (where) again?”
“I’m from Singapore,” I lied.
“Ok,” she said.
“I am Korean!” said the woman, who loves to use exclamation marks. “Do you have girlfriend?”
“I wish I had someone sexy,” I lied.
“Wow! Sounds great! I can be someone sexy, if you like,” she replied.
“How?” I said.
“Let’s have a video chat!” she said.
“I’m too shy,” I said.
“Hahaha! I’m shy, too!” she said.
“We’re shy,” I said.
“Yeah, but I know we can do it!” she said.
“I can’t,” I said.
“Hehehe! Why? I wanna to hook up with you, dear! Let’s have some fun!” she said.
“Why don’t you come to Singapore?” I said, buying time as I was not ready for some video chat fun with the Korean.
(Actually, if she had insisted that I sent a “revealing” photograph of myself, I had one ready. Not mine, but a photo I got from a stranger who WhatsApp-ed me about his alternative sexual orientation.
I told him to send me a revealing photograph of himself to prove that he was real. He did. He asked me to reciprocate and I sent him a photograph of a “mouse” as my private part.)
“Don’t have plans yet, dear!” she said. “So, what we can do now?”
I forgot to reply as I got distracted by Apsara, my eight-year-old daughter, and Sylverius Junior, my three-year-old son.
During my chat with the overly friendly Korean, I messaged Barang Naik, my WhatsApp group: “I’ll bet I’m going to have cybersex soon. After that I’ll receive a message to pay RM2k, if not a compromising video of me will be released to a list of my friends on FB”.
“LLOLLL,” Nick replied.
“Soon she’ll ask if I have got a web cam,” I said. “I’ll bet she’s a man.”
The next day I saw a classic Datuk Seri Michael Chong story on The Star Online. The headline was: “Friend request, nude chat ... and then, blackmail”. It was the typical story that has become a cliché.
Lim, a 20-year-old student, accepted a friend request on social media from an attractive Filipina named Angel Capistrano.
She asked him to have a video chat and he agreed. Angel started stripping and asked Lim to do the same. He did. The next day, she sent him a video link of him nude and she demanded RM1,500, or she would make it public.
Lim then sought Chong’s help.
On Thursday, I called the MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head.
“Why do men fall for such a scam?” I asked him.
“I’m also surprised. I fail to understand why, as these victims are married men with families or single with a beautiful girlfriend,” said Chong, who dealt with similar cases.
“I asked them what happened. And they answered it happened during a moment of weakness.”
Women, too, fall for such cybersex scams, said Chong. However, there are fewer female victims than men as it is more difficult to make a woman strip on video.
“Women are the worst victims as they will not reveal that they have been blackmailed and they will pay, pay, pay till they have to borrow from Ah Long (loan shark),” he said.
The conman, according to Chong, would ask the victim to pose in certain compromising poses.
“They call it art,” he said.
The photographs are categorised. One-star is when you expose yourself a little bit and five-star is when you expose more. The more you expose, the more you have to pay.
“What’s your advice to the public so that they will not become a victim?” I asked.
“I have advised in the media so many times not to fall for such a con. But nobody listens,” he said.
“My advice is if you do get conned, don’t pay. If you pay, you will be paying till you die (go bankrupt).”
Chong said the victims should fight back and lodge a police report.
Only in one out of 10 cases where the victims fought back did the conman follow through with the threat to release the compromising photographs.
“Don’t think of malu (being embarrassed),” he said. “Time will heal. Don’t pay.”

Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/one-mans-meat/2017/04/01/beware-that-moment-of-weakness-be-on-your-guard-against-possible-cyberscams-and-whatever-you-do-dont/#CAm8k4QVeMpOVIQx.99d

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