Mums and dads, be very careful when you invest your money in schemes that seem too good to be true.
By: Anay Bhalerao
What would you do if someone in an expensive car, wearing designer clothes and sporting a Rolex tells you that he can multiply your investments? You check the claim! This is what Mr Jeffrey Tan and a few others did not do. They ended up losing over $1 Million to a sports arbitrage scam.
As reported, Mr Tan was approached by Mr Alvin Ang Jun Bin, a 33-year-old Singaporean who runs a Sports betting syndicate. The ‘game’ was sports arbitrage. It was ‘legal’ according to Mr Ang because it was not taking place in Singapore. Mr Tan was impressed by Mr Ang’s lifestyle, and when promised a ‘risk-free increase’ of his investment, eagerly invested his money. Not only that, he persuaded his friends and parents to invest as well. Together, they ended up investing about $200,000.
Mr Tan tried to end his life on finding out that he had been duped. Mr Ang persuaded over 20 such eager investors to invest about $1 Million. He is, as expected, not contactable.
What we found about Keystone Enterprise
This is not the first story you may have read where investors lost a lot of money in such spurious schemes. I did a bit of research about the sports arbitrage company – Keystone Enterprise. The website almost looks legitimate. It talks of a ‘genius’ algorithm that has been developed by mathematics wizards that can actually give you a guaranteed profit.
A sports arbitrage is where you bet on both the outcomes in such a way that you end up making money. The website uses some Game theory jargon and makes the person believe that this is, in fact, a fool-proof scheme! But when I dug deeper, I felt that the Board Members looked a bit suspicious. I searched the names on LinkedIn, and I saw the names alright, but the profiles were different from that described on the website.
But the big surprise? All of them are employees of a big MNC. The names and profiles were altered to make them look legitimate. The addresses of business on both the websites matched. The phone numbers also looked quite similar. So to confirm, I contacted the company. I have not heard officially from the company yet, but the executive to whom I reported the website had her doubts if Keystone Enterprise existed at all!
The point of this article is not to expose any particular company. It is to show that it is very easy to dupe someone, especially with a good website.
How do we spot a scam?
Due to the advent of the internet, the scammers have an effective tool in their hands. They can impersonate anyone, befriend anyone and even dupe anyone under the guise of anonymity. The most common investment scams are risk-free betting, land ownership, Agro-related scams, drop-shipping scams and the mother of all scams – Multi Level Marketing or Ponzi schemes. This year, Australians lost over $ 1 million in sports and betting scams alone.
There is a reason why most of these things are not authorised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
There are a few things that are common in such scams.
1# The promise seems too good to be true
If you see unrealistic returns with no risk, chances are, it is a scam. Most of these promises are into fields that very few people understand. So, the salesperson would typically use some jargon to confuse you. Don’t fall for it.
2# The entry is by ‘invitation only’ and the spots are limited
Many of these scams would pressurise you into investing early as the spots would be limited. They may even take a small token from you and multiply it in a few weeks. That would entice you to invest more. It is your hard-earned money. Don’t fall for such trap.
3# You would have to invest more money to get returns on the earlier investments
Many times, in such scams, you pay an initial sum of money. Later, the sales person would ask you to invest more and more to see any returns. The reasons are often compelling, and you want to see your initial investment back. So you end up paying every time.
In such cases, stop paying more and seek a legal recourse.
4# There would be testimonials of people who got rich overnight
I once attended a seminar on the request of a friend. It was in a posh conference room of a big hotel. The entry was free, but we had to register. The place was packed to the corners, and many were standing at the back.
During the presentation, in between big words, I could sense that this was some scam. People who had dropped out from school were now testifying that they had gotten rich in the last year! When someone starts throwing their income at you, understand that this is a scam.
How to be sure about any investment scheme?
1# Check if the company is registered with MAS
Monitory Authority of Singapore is your safe bet. All the investment companies that are authorised by MAS have to submit the details about the investment schemes. Only then, they get an approval to market the schemes.
If you are cheated by a company authorised by MAS, you still have a hope.
2# Ask for brochures/pamphlets
The sales person may promise you returns orally, but it is safer to go through the fine print. Request brochures and go through the agreement. Find out ‘How’ exactly the money is going to be made, and where would it come from!
For instance, in Multi-Level Marketing schemes, you end up getting a small percentage every time you recruit someone. So in effect, you are getting the money that your friends paid. Be aware of the flow of cash. It may expose many lies.
3# Find out the ‘where’ any dispute would be resolved
Most often, any disputes coming out of these outrageous schemes would be settled overseas. If that is the case, ask yourself if it is worth it!
4# Don’t overtly rely on recommendations of friends and relatives
Most of these schemes take an advantage of familiarity. The recruiter may be someone who has already invested his money into the scheme. It may work for them, but it is up to you to be smart and conduct your own due-diligence. Don’t rely on anyone’s recommendation when it comes to your money.
Parents, we understand your urge to multiply your money to give a good life to your kids. But, there is no shortcut when it comes to success. As a famous TV character once said, these con men select someone who ‘who wants something for nothing, then give him nothing for something’. Keep your investments safe. It is wiser to see it grow slowly and steadily in trusted hands than disappear altogether.
Remember: an honest man cannot be cheated!
A doctor who has recently taken to writing, Anay is a photography enthusiast, an aspiring cook and a connoisseur of hand-drip coffee, Excel sheets, and Sambhar.
Article was first published in The Asian Parent (https://sg.theasianparent.com/investment-fraud-scams-singaporeans/3). Republished with permission.