Salam and good day to all of you. I want to share an interesting experience that happened to me on Friday 13th November 2009 at Sungai Buloh R&R at around 8 pm. I had just came out of the surau at the R&R after performing maghrib prayers there. As I got into my car, another car with a small family inside pulled up behind me. The driver, a young Arab man around 30 years of age gestured to me as if wanting to ask me a question. I got out of my car and approached his car.
In the front seat was an old man, probably his father. In the back seat was a middle-aged woman, probably his mother and a small girl, probably his daughter. The windows were wound all down all the way and the interior light was switched on. I could see all their faces clearly. He then asked me whether the food served at the shops in the R&R were halal. I said "Of course". Then he asked me whether the currency he had with him could be used to buy the food there. He then took out his wallet. saw that he had a lot of cash. He pulled out a note and showed me a Singapore dollar note. So I told him that he could not use Singapore dollars in Malaysia. "You can only use Ringgit at the shop here, I said". He looked dejected and I felt quite sorry for him and his family. They must have just arrived in Malaysia, rented a car and must be on the way somewhere. They must also be feeling quite hungry, I thought.
He then got out of the car and asked me if I could show him Ringgit notes to know how they look like. So I took out my wallet and showed him a one Ringgit note. He then asked me if he can see other bigger notes. So I showed him a RM10 note. Suddenly he put his hand in my wallet and pulled out my RM50 notes. I was taken aback and felt quite puzzled and quite annoyed.
This guy is rude, I thought. He then started showing the money to his relatives in the car. But before I could do anything he suddenly put back all the money in my wallet which was still in my hand. "Phew!" I said, to myself. I was worried in case he jumps into his car and drive off with my RM50 notes. Then he asked me what the exchange rate was for ringgit. As I was telling him the current US-Ringgit exchange rate, he got back in his car and asked me whether I had RM100 notes to change with him. I said no but I said maybe KFC would accept credit cards from him so that he and his family could have dinner. He appeared not to be interested, thanked me for my help, smiled and started driving away and waving goodbye to me. I stood there puzzled because I thought they were hungry.
Anyway, I got back in my car. Then I started feeling suspicious, opened my wallet and started counting my money. I knew I had more than RM400 in my wallet because I had just withdrawn RM500 from the ATM the day before and had only spent less than RM100 since. I should have around eight pieces of RM50 notes, some RM10 notes and a few RM1 notes.
But when I counted my money, there were only three pieces of RM50 notes. The rest were RM1 notes and some RM10 notes. I was really puzzled. So I sat there and carefully counted the notes again because maybe I did not count properly. Again I only found three RM50 notes. That is really odd, I said to myself. What happened to my other RM50 notes.
Then I drove home. But I was beginning to suspect that the Arab guy had something to do with my missing RM50 notes. Even though he put all the notes back in my wallet, perhaps he must have played a trick on me. I
had a suspicion that the guy did a `magic trick' with my money when he took the money out of my wallet. Maybe he had swapped RM1 notes with my RM50 notes without me noticing and that was probably the reason why I did not realize that he took the RM50 notes from me. But I was not sure and was trying to recall exactly how much money I had in my wallet before the incident.
On the way home, I stopped at a surau near my house to pray Isha'. After the prayers I related my experience to my friends. Before I could even finish three sentences, one friend asked me whether the guy wanted to exchange foreign currencies with me because an Arab man had tried to con him the same way at the Shah Alam mosque. But the conman was not successful because he was not carrying much cash that day.
Another friend, En. Aziz , a taxi driver, confirmed with me that incidents involving an Arab man with a family stealing people's money while pretending to be interested in exchanging currencies have been happening at various R&Rs such as at Bukit Jalil and also Sungai Buloh. The modus operandi were almost the same. Just some slight variations depending on the amount of money you have with you. So I concluded that
was indeed a victim of a slick conman whose fingers were so quick that I failed to notice the swapping of RM1 notes for my RM50 notes in front of my eyes.
Luckily I only had a few hundred Ringgit in my wallet so my loss was not too big. En Aziz told me that a friend of his lost RM3 thousand to an Arab guy, probably the same guy. That friend happened to carry thousands of Ringgit with him on the day the conman worked his slick hands on him, pretending to ask to exchange currencies with him at a very favourable rates. By the time his friend found out that he was shortchanged by RM3 thousand, the guy had already driven off in his silver coloured car.
So friends, be careful if a man of Middle Eastern appearance approaches you and requests to exchange foreign currencies. I have no problem if you wish to forward this message to as many of your relatives and friends to prevent them from being conned by this same man who is probably still driving around looking for new unsuspecting victims.
Professor Mohd Nazari Ismail
Faculty of Business and Accounting
Head, Corporate Planning Unit
University of Malaya