Malaysian Travel Scratchie Scams
I knew I’d won at least $100,000 even before I’d scratched the cards. I was so confident, I took before and after shots to prove it …
See? Second prize: US$190,000 … Woot!
But I won’t bother to claim the prize. Because there isn’t one. The real winnings go to whoever sends these things out. If you claim, you’ll end up paying them.
The envelope these arrived in had no return address, but it came with an impressive array of stamps from Malaysia (five in all) …
… and a nicely printed glossy pamphlet …
… in only slightly dodgy English …
We would like to thank all our clients and which has led to our company’s dynamic growth …
… but I’ve never been a client, and I’ve never heard of Secret of Life Tourism before. (Also, their slogan sounds a little ominous: “Wherever you go, no one will ever know.” Who’s running the place, Tony Soprano?)
So we have three clues right there: unsolicited snail mail, no return address, and all those stamps. (Seriously, how many companies use stamps these days, let alone five on each envelope? Imagine sending out a hundreds or even a thousands of these things. My tongue feels dusty at the thought of it.)
But what catches most punter’s eyes are those scratchcards and the promise of mega-dollar prizes …
(Note, there’s a little bit of cunningness here, too. You don’t win first prize – who would be that lucky? – but second’s pretty good.)
So where’s the scam?
It’s right there, written on the back of the ticket …
Prize winners may be obliged to submit taxes or any other mandatory charges as a result of the award.
When you claim your prize, you’ll be asked to pay Malaysian taxes of $7,000. If you hesitate, the company will graciously offer to pay half, leaving you to find a mere $3,500 to claim $190,000.
At this point, they could just send you the balance of $186,500, but of course there are all sorts of legal and bureaucratic reasons why you have to front up with your cash first. And once you’ve done so … you’ll never hear from them again. What a bargain!
Send your money to the toilet!
The back of both brochure and tickets contains an address:
427 Jalan Tun Razak,
50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Well, at least we now know how they moisten all those stamps …)
The nuts and bolts
This postal scam has been reported as far afield as Ireland, Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. Our local Department of Internal Affairs Postal Scams website lists more than 160 variations of the brochure — along with useful PDFs so you can compare yours. But they all amount to the same thing: they’re just bum-fodder – although I’d be wary of that shiny paper and the sharp edges on the scratchies.