“Encik ada kes mahkamah?” the young man on the other end of the line asked.
“Saya? Saya memang banyak… yang baru ni, kes tikam sampai mati. Tapi yang tu, saya dah kowtim dah …”
These days, in the twilight of my years, I savour the little pleasures in life. A nice, flaky, buttery croissant and a hot cup of black coffee in the morning, lunch of nasi campur with friends at a verdant clearing near a traffic intersection while watching the world go by, and the occasional put-put to Kalumpang.
But nothing is more rewarding than entertaining scammers on a slow, dreary Sunday.
I used to swear bloody murder at these guys. Mainly because of the untold suffering they bring to millions of people around the world, stripping innocent victims of their entire life savings.
On one of my scheduled visits to my cardiologist, I was told that these outbursts were not good for me.
“Haris, try gardening instead. Or cross-stitching. It’s very calming. Getting worked up over these scammers… it’s not good for your heart.”
I guess it was the genuine look of concern on his face that finally made me decide to try a different tack.
But this requires a bit of work, a hyperactive imagination, and the ability to think on your feet. But if the stars and planets are aligned, the sense of self-fulfilment is indescribable.
My proudest achievement was when I held two scammers, working in tandem – one as a court officer, and the other as a police sergeant in IPD Johor Bahru – ‘captive’ on the phone for 45 minutes.
The former had called to say that I had a warrant of arrest for a hit-and-run. An imaginary 14-year-old boy had been hit by an imaginary car, driven by me, who was nowhere near the time and place of the imaginary incident.
I listened as he went on his spiel, trying hard to stifle a laugh, while formulating the script to this developing story.
“Astaghfirullah!” I exclaimed, mustering up the most genuine-sounding fear and horror at the prospect of being hauled away in handcuffs.
After protesting my innocence, I offered an explanation in the most convincing, retiree’s voice I could come up with. Feeble, but still coherent.
“Ini mesti anak saya ni…” I said, my voice in a faux quiver.
“Anak pakcik kerja apa?” he responded. His voice commanding, convincing. He knew he had me.
“Dia jual bundle”, I replied without hesitation. To this day, I honestly don’t know where I plucked that from.
The man proceeded to put me through to a ‘Sarjan Nora’, from IPD Johor Bahru.
“Ini kes berat, pakcik,” she said, adding that the warrant of arrest would be executed on me later that day. Unless I could deposit RM150,000 into their account.
I began crying and wailing uncontrollably. My body wracked with every spasm, with every sob.
I told the good sergeant that I was a retiree from Pos Malaysia, that I lived alone in a ramshackled hut in Tanjung Malim, had no one to take care of me, and was of failing health. All I had was Cik Kalsom, a widow who lived right next door, who would pop in from time to time to check in on me and sometimes give me food. I sobbed and wailed some more.
Then, to dangle a fat, juicy carrot, I told ‘Sarjan Nora’ that I had recently withdrawn my entire life savings of RM87,000 from my Employees Provident Fund to pay for my triple bypass.
“Syukur Alhamdulillah, saya cuma perlu bayar RM15,000 saja, jadi ada la duit lebih sikit,” I said in between howls of anguish at my accursed luck.
Probably smelling crisp ringgit bills right about now, ‘Sarjan Nora’ asked if I knew how to make online bank transfers.
“Online transfer tu apa?” I asked, shrieking as though I had just witnessed my prized British Shorthair being run over by a kapchai.
“Pakcik… mengucap pakcik. Mengucap. Dah… dah… pakcik jangan nanges ya. Pakcik bawak bertenang dulu. Nanti saya call pakcik balik.”
She never did.
These days, I am more sanguine. I prefer to see the good in my fellow man. I believe that these people, like many, have no option but to choose this vile and heinous career path, thanks to dwindling job opportunities, a lack of education, and unbridled in-breeding. No doubt, the prospect of an enormous pay-out is intoxicating, and probably a huge driving factor.
Nowadays, when I get a scam call, I’d listen to the person, and then, in the most nurturing voice, tell him or her that they sound like a good person, with a good heart, from a good family. If they’re Muslim, even better. I’d bring in the concept of divine retribution, of how Allah, the most Benevolent, the most Merciful, would curse their entire existence for inflicting pain and suffering on innocent victims.
“Kalau Allah bagi balasan kat adik saja, takpe. Tapi kalau Allah buat bini adik, anak-anak adik jadi bodo, terencat ke… Nauzubillah, dik. Kalau adik sayangkan keluarga adik, anak bini adik, carilah kerje yang halal.”
On more than one occasion, the callers kept quiet for a moment, possibly to let my words sink in. And then, they would quietly say: “Baik, abang. Abang tolong doakan saya, ya”.
“InsyaAllah, nak,” I would softly say. A bit over the top, perhaps, but hey…
My ex used to say that I was a sceptic, that I don’t trust people. In this day and age, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.