ALOR SETAR – A lack of awareness among Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors in using its services is the main reason they are deceived by syndicates or fraudulent agents, resulting in losses of thousands of ringgit.
Consumers Association of Kedah (CAKE) secretary Mohamad Yusrizal Yusoff said the association had received more than 40 complaints since 2015 pertaining to such frauds, including in matters of withdrawing money for purchasing homes, education, and investment purposes.
He said the latest case received by the association was in early October, involving 16 victims in the state who suffered losses of more than RM30,000 when their EPF savings, which were meant to pay for their children\’s higher education tuition fees, were swindled by individuals claiming to be withdrawal agents.
“However, after the money was withdrawn from the victims’ EPF savings, their children could not pursue their studies as offered earlier, and among the reasons given were that the fields they applied for their children were not available at the college in question.
“When the victims asked back their money, various reasons were given by the agents, and there were also agents who went missing,” he told Bernama recently.
Mohamad Yusrizal said the victims did not lodge a police report over the matter, and instead left it to CAKE to help solve the problem, and currently the case is still being investigated by them.
He said based on complaints made by the victims, the modus operandi of the syndicates was to target rural communities, especially those who were less knowledgeable about EPF’s procedures.
“These syndicates and agents will not use social media platforms to approach their victims, as it would be easily detected by the authorities. They prefer the “offline” method of dealing with victims, such as opening booths during certain carnivals or counters at mosques,” he said.
In this regard, Mohamad Yusrizal advised EPF contributors to remain cautious of syndicates, and if approached by an agent, they should first investigate the agent’s background before proceeding with any transaction.
Additionally, he said consumers could refer to consumer associations for advice on savings withdrawal for any purpose.
“Some people need EPF money to pay home deposits, or continue their studies, and they are those who have no fixed deposits. We understand their situation. But if the individual claims to be an agent like this, please do not make a decision in haste. Get advice from experts such as financial planners, or even if they come to us, it is fine. This is to avoid being cheated by syndicates and such agents,” he said.
Bernama, however cold not get any comment from the victims, as they declined for fear of safety while the matter was still under investigation.
Meanwhile, Kedah Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Supt Chan Teck Paing said police had yet to receive any reports so far, and this could be due to the reason the account owners themselves had colluded with the syndicates to withdraw money from their EPF savings.
“As far as I know, no police report has been received on this issue, and no investigation has been conducted by the Kedah Commercial CID,” he said.
However, he advised the public to utilise their EPF savings wisely, and avoid being deceived by those offering ‘help’ to withdraw money from their savings, as they normally charged a high commission (usually above 50 per cent) for the purpose.
“EPF savings are hard earned money of the contributors, and will be an important source of livelihood after retirement,” he said.
Chan added the act of withdrawing money through false documents or fraud was a crime punishable under Section 59 of the EPF Act .