PETALING JAYA - They are educated and some come from well-to-do families. But that didn't stop them from being greedy and getting conned.
Many of these were professionals and some of them royals and they lost hundreds of thousands, even millions, of their savings in get-rich-quick schemes.
A former prosecutor with Bank Negara Malaysia, Fahmi Abd Moin, said these victims even innocently induced their family members and friends to invest in bulk.
"The victims were cheated because of their greed for higher returns. They were easy targets as they had the money to invest in these types of schemes," said Fahmi, who had handled illegal deposit-taking cases at courts nationwide for 10 years.
Fahmi, who started practising as a lawyer on May 5, said these professionals were willing to invest in such schemes although they were aware of the risks involved.
Most of the companies were into gold trading, forex trading and unlicensed activities.
The unlicensed activities included direct-selling business, information technology services, holiday packages, sale of crude oil and fund-raising and charity-based non-governmental organisations.
A check on the Bank Negara Malaysia website found 221 companies on the "Financial Consumer Alert" list as of May 19 for involvement in such schemes.
These companies are not authorised to take deposits under the relevant laws and regulations administered by the central bank.
Fahmi said most of the companies were local firms though some had foreign links.
A check of the websites connected to the companies showed that they used convincing words to persuade people to get into the schemes.
One of the schemes also had live updates about alleged society members becoming millionaires and enjoying a flexible lifestyle.
Fahmi, who had also been a deputy public prosecutor with the Attorney-General's Chambers for almost five years, said there were various schemes in the country.
"There was a company which introduced a car-rental service with a minimum RM3,000 (S$1,068) investment.
"They would sign an agreement for 10 years with each investor, and promise them a return of 10 per cent every month. There were people who had invested up to RM1mil," he revealed.
Fahmi said there was also another scheme, where a company sold public phones at RM5,000 each.
"They would sign an agreement between five and 10 years, and promise a return of 10 per cent to 15 per cent a month for the sale and maintenance of the public phones," he added.
Fahmi said the schemes took advantage of people's eagerness for so-called higher returns than financial institutions, trust funds or Tabung Haji.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had recently said 66 companies and individuals had been investigated for offences related to unlicensed deposit-taking from the public from 2000 till last year.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said 43 cases had been brought to court, with 23 cases pending investigation.
Last month, businesswoman Noor Sabarina Ismail, 38, who conned a nurse in a get-rich-quick scheme, was jailed 12 months by a magistrate.
She had convinced the nurse to invest in a bogus hamper business in August 2013, promising a two-fold return for her money.