When my mum sent me a text on Whatsapp with a very familiar, recycled message that I’ve seen over the last couple of years with regards to a so-called ‘push-pocket scam’, my initial reaction and usual reply would be to ignore such messages circulating and stop sending out such rumors. She then told me to look at the news portals since it is just out on national news.

The message goes something like this (unedited):

“Genuine message posted by a law firm in Malaysia.

If you’re going to KL, take note! PUSH-POCKET IN KUALA LUMPUR

I am sure you all have heard of ‘pick pocket’. A new trend ‘push pocket’. Read on.. for your own good

A few days ago a new type of crime has surfaced in town. It goes something like this:-

Somebody slips a hand-phone into your pocket, sometimes it could be just a wallet with an identity card and a few ringgit. A few minutes later, the ‘owner’ comes up and confronts you, the ‘thief ‘. He makes a big commotion that you stole his stuff. You, caught unaware, are then pulled aside by the ‘owner’ for a settlement. You are intimidated and threatened that if you do not pay up the police will be brought in. If you pay up, this ‘owner’ lets you go. If not, the police are brought in. Another strange thing is that there always seems to be a ‘witness’ to your ‘theft’. I am told this often happens to foreigners at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or even at LRT trains. Given that you’re ‘guilty until proven innocent’ as far as the Malaysian police are concerned, I understand some poor people are in jail for these ‘offences’. At the KLIA, the ‘owner’ throws his hand-phone and wallet with the few ringgit notes into the luggage trolley of a just arrived passenger. The drama unfolds a few minutes later. The real culprit has easily convinced our Malaysian police to arrest the real victim (if he has not paid up the ‘settlement’ demand). This is a very serious matter. This is another form of extortionists operating in broad daylight. They are disgusting criminals who will do anything to rob and steal. The sickening part of the whole scenario is that unless you pay the ‘quoted settlement’ money, they will put you in real trouble by calling the police. The real culprit gets back his hand-phone and wallet but the real victim ( i.e.. could be any one of us) is thrown into the police lock up and charged in court. So do be very careful, otherwise you may end up as a ‘thief’ as you have no way to prove your innocence. Pass it on….. let more people be aware of such things around them.

Geh Cheng Lok & Co,Advocates & Solicitors”

I wonder if Geh Cheng Lock & Co. Advocates & Solicitors were genuinely providing community service messages based on their cases handled, or spreading rumors based on hearsay as a propaganda to tarnish our country’s image, particularly against the police force. Or… if Geh Cheng Lock & Co. even existed at all in the first place (I wouldn’t be bothered going to that extent to find out on this).

Having personally handled several cases of scams and frauds in the past, I usually shrug off rumors and hearsay but do take note of such modus operandi with a pinch of salt, especially when it seems plausible to a certain extent.

I did a brief google search and found some references.

At least one reference went back to as early as 2009, while The Strait Times, Free Malaysia Today, The Malay Mail, The Star and New Straits Times just published it online (10th July 2016).

In the recent articles, the Inspector-general of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar urged victims of the scam to report to the police should they become victims of the scam.

What is interesting to note is that there have been no history of such cases reported (or perhaps, being investigated) despite the message being made viral by ‘Geh Cheng Lock & Co.’.

This is one of the many different techniques of scams and is considered a bit more time consuming and exposed to various elements such as security surveillance and victims could outsmart them against their mode of operations.

Realistically, the old fashioned pick pocket technique would probably be much easier for criminals to operate as they don’t need to waste time on arguing with their victims and risk getting arrested (video below).

There is also a challenge in the conduct of this type of scam as perpetrators would not dare lodging a police report or calling the security in proving their case.

So I guess if anyone were to ask me about how rampant this modus operandi is, I am still highly doubtful that it is anywhere close to being practical.