Reporting credit card fraud in Malaysia & beating Apple repair scammers in Vietnam

So, in my rush of traveling over the years, as always happens, there are stories you don’t tell. And then sometimes, something triggers the memory and you are like “Oh wow. Did I tell that story ? I’ll check” and you go back, and realise you never did.

So, alright, the thing that triggered my memory today was a conversation I had with an Apple Authorised Repair Agent in Australia. As you do, when your laptop or iPad or whatever needs fixing. And they fobbed me off like I was a moron. Like “Oh oh.. because some of the screws are burred on the bottom plate we can’t give you warranty. You’ll have to replace half the laptop in order to replace the glued in $80 battery pack” and I left chuckling “Oh my god. You don’t know know who the f**k you just turned away”.

I mean, I have a bit of a thing about consumer rights and about the law and about companies or corporations sort of… not screwing people in the ass. I’ve pursued it many times in many countries, but tonight I was reminded of a couple of times I got the fucking POLICE involved over some dodgy IT shops in SE Asia when some asshole tried to defraud me or deny me warranty, and I won.

And I realised that even though I’d literally told the lengthy story of the wonderful taxi driver who became my friend when he drove me to the CIB in Kuala Lumpur in this wonderful post where I describe the moment I first met my friend Subra in 2014, I’d never told the story of what transpired afterwards.

“I met a great taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur this week. I just needed a quick trip to the Sentral police station to report a fraudster who tried to rip me off, so I picked the first taxi off a cab rank in Jalan Sultan in Chinatown and jumped in.”

So ok… how did THAT happen ?

Well, first story.. credit card fraud in Malaysia.

I was in KL, for a short time. I didn’t have a lot of cash but I had my debit card. I was wandering around Petaling Street in Chinatown and I went to the big electronics market block to see if they had anything fun.

Geographic lowdown:

Ok, so you’ve got this picture, right ? Jalan Petaling is the main mall down the Chinatown Markets in RED. Hotel China Town 2 gets a special GREEN circle because they are ALWAYS my first call when I’m in KL and I want to hang in the Chinatown mall and they are ALWAYS freaking excellent, so look them up, they are my pals, my reccomundo. I love them.

Along, the ORANGE of Jalan Hang Lekir you have the best Chinese food and DVD shops and flower shops and … I dunno, the Thirsty Mouse of Petaling Street, if you happened to be there at that time.

Along Jalan Sultan in BLUE you have the best location of Hiro Comics, the best KPOP and Manga chain in Malaysia, that I’ve filmed before..

….and in that big PURPLE mess at the end across the main road, you have the dodgy town of mobile bullshit. All the worst foreign sim, unlocking, shady deal motherf**kers of Chinatown. I dropped in keen to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 back in 2004 because they offered an amazing price and then at the last minute tried to pull some bullshit to “pay out the contract” cheap as an add on.. and I was like “Yeah whatever.. that’s bullshit.. but ok.. I’ll pay it anyway because I don’t even live here and don’t have any concern about local phone companies”, when the “boss” asked to take my card in the back and run the transaction.. which I thought nothing of. At that time in Asia I was used to places that ran cards without PIN numbers, so I let him. Twice.

And he came back each time to say “Oh it was insufficient funds” and I was like “Well, no, it’s not, because I checked it before I went out”.. and then after the second time he came back it dawned on me and I was like “Hey, show me the receipts man. You said it rejected me for insufficient funds twice.. Show me the RECEIPTS” and he was like “Oh no no no sir. No receipt. Our machine it is.. err.. out of the paper, sir” and I was like “Oh you MOTHERFUCKER. You ran my card out of my sight twice and you lie about receipts ?” and I started yelling and then this like half Asian African guy came out screaming doing Kung Fu and shit, forcing me out of the place, and I happened to have my Nikon with me, (because fk leaving that in my hotel room) and I rushed back and took a photo of the guy, outside his shop, running at me yelling with his fist in the air.

And then I went back to my hotel, and I checked the internet and I called my bank and they were like “We can’t tell you anything right now sir, please check back in a few days and you should report this to the local police” and I was like “Yeah, in fucking Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, in the mobile ripoff area second only in SE Asia to those assholes in Singapore that made the Vietnamese businessman get on his knees and beg for his iPhone.. sure”.

But I did. I talked to the hotel staff and then I talked to a friend who lived in KL.. and then I talked to someone else, who gave me the address of a local police station, and then I called this DUDE that I’ve written about before… Subra.. and he took me to the local police station.. and I waited.. and I waited in line and everyone was speaking Chinese because it was freaking Chinatown and then I finally got to speak to someone and they had the poorest English I’d heard in all my time in Malaysia and I related my story again for the 5th time and they said “I’m really sorry sir. We deal with small crimes and traffic offences in this area. Your complaint needs to go to the central bureau in downtown KL”.

Downtown KL was a place I hadn’t been in years, when I was photographing the twin towers one night and fucked up and dropped my camera and broke my lens, but that’s another previously documented story. But I literally had Subra outside waiting, with the motor running hot (not really, he shut it off while he waited, but it felt like he was outside like my getaway vehicle) and I asked him to take me to “KL Sentral” aka Downtown Malaysia where the Arab oil money flows.. and I got dropped off outside this HUGEASS building that was probably the biggest police station I’d ever seen… and I had to go inside and show a piece of paper to every single person I spoke to who all knew EXACTLY who I was going to see, and gave me directions….

And then I spoke to this lovely young, thin Malaysian woman with a VERY unusual semi-western Asian accent who was so articulate and amazing and spoke to me in detail and then told me that I was seeing some guy who was like “The Chief”.

And then I got led into this room with this big, brown guy of very unknown but clearly very old Malaysia origin with another striking accent and a laugh that sounded like Fat Albert without quite as much largesse. And he looked at me as he glanced at his notes and told me that he’d had things explained to him several times but that he wanted to hear it from me.

He knew the whole story already from everyone I’d told it to, but he looked at the photo on my Nikon D90 of the half African guy charging at me, yelling.. the shops banner over their area, he knew the street without me even telling him. He knew EVERYTHING. And he started to speak to me like this, and I will relay it in the best rendition I can, after 5 years…

“So. You sat at the (Chinatown) precinct for an hour and then came here. Sir, let me ask you, how did you find ‘HERE’ ?” And I look at him and said “Well.. I asked a lot of people where to report fraud and then I told the first police station about the fraud and then I received a referral to your department and eventually to you, and I got someone to drive me here and now I’m here.. and I have these photos and this address and this report about these guys who I am pretty sure skimmed my VISA card twice, but I won’t know until tomorrow”

The Chief broke out in huge, volcanic, room-filling laughter. “Sir,” he said. “I see very few foreign people who come all the way HERE to report a fraud in (Chinatown). What makes you come all this way, so determined ?” And that’s the moment I realised that I was on the 8th floor office of a boss of the most important criminal investigation department in the country by sheer luck and this crazy guy was wondering how the hell I got there.

And I gulped for a moment and then I imagine that I said something like “Well, I guess I’m just a smart traveler and I am really cautious and I really dislike scammers and thieves and I just feel that I should report them. I’ll have my money back in a couple of days, but I wanted this small company to be investigated”.

I don’t remember what “The Chief” said after that. It was a long time ago. But he laughed some more and then took a few small notes and confirmed a couple of details and basically said “I know. I know where. I know who. I know what. Don’t worry. I’ll deal with that”. And I just knew, that when the time came for a fucking raid on all the dodgiest pieces of shit in that mall.. THAT shop was #1 on the list. I don’t know if it was next week or next year. That area is well documented in the news as being a scam haven. But I was just really amused to end up in basically the top chief of fraud investigations office, with him laughing at me, telling me how incredibly unusual it was for a “tourist” to come and report such a crime to the top level of police.

I got my money back a couple of weeks later. I don’t know what happened to the shop. But that meeting with this police investigator was PRICELESS and one of my almost forgotten memories of that visit to Kuala Lumpur that I only ever referenced in footnotes previously. I do imagine his team later forcing that shop owner I identified to be first to the wall just as they were first to the door for “being a goddamn public nuisance”.

My second, of a potential many stories, is from an “Apple Authorised Repair Agent” in Saigon .. HCMC, Vietnam. It’s not even worth mentioning their name because they’re long gone now. But it was a little place on Nguyen Trai, not far from the Cao Thang roundabout with a very generic Apple-ish sounding name, as they all have.

I took this place something quite unusual that I wouldn’t expect to see every day in 2014. It was a 2003 Apple PowerBook 17″ 1GHZ flagship release. Like.. first 17″ aluminium PowerBook model.. a weapon. Worth over $6000 at release… a bit over a decade ago. But it was old now and I was like “Yo. So, this is Vietnam in 2014.. can you fix the tiny fault in my otherwise amazing 11 year old PowerBook ?” And they were like “Fuck yeah. We can do that. We have donor parts of other machines we can source. We’ll fix that for $120 !” And I was like “hell YEAH man. You will fix an 11 year old PowerBook screen.. I love you. .go for it”. And then I got it back.. with a new screen and paid and said thanks and was really happy and took it home to find .. oh, wifi and bluetooth weren’t working (IE not connected on the board) and I took it back and they were like “Oh yeah, sorry man, we fix” and I got it back a few days later and the wireless worked but now there was no sound, so I took it back and I was like “Sound dudes” and they nodded and tested and said “Ok” and then it took over a week and then they called and said “Ok, so sorry. Sound board dead.. we replace main board” and I came back in, and this time I sat down in front of a machine that still for some CRAZY reason had my hard drive in it (which is something you’d NEVER get from a real Apple store), but which had a different screen, a different case, a different keyboard that I think was German now and was not in any way my computer except the hard drive.. and then I took it home and the screen flickered off and didn’t come back.

So the next day I called one of my buddies. He was like.. my bartender, my student, my friend, my relationship advisor.. the one person I really trusted in Saigon, and I asked “Khanh, this Apple shop on Nguyen Trai have really fucked me hard.. would you come with me man ?” And he said “Sure man, we’re buddies. I’ll be at your place in 20 minutes and you can take me there”.

So we went along, and I was pretty cool… I was like “Yo man.. you replaced like everything.. totally everything except the HDD .. and now the video is broken.. like no man.. I don’t want no Euro keyboard broken motherboard version of my PowerBook.. I want MY PowerBook with a fixed screen.. and it’s taken 4 visits and many replacements and my machine is just gone” and they were all “No no no … bullshit bullshit bullshit” and I said “No man.. look. My friend here.. (name) his dad is a top police general, and I’m about to ask my friend to step outside and call the local police and ask some cop to come down here and deal with my dispute because you seem to want to just keep replacing shit and fucking me”. And I don’t know… I don’t remember, but I don’t think I was yelling. I was just like “This is how it’s gonna be man, and that’s what’s gonna happen and this is what I’m gonna say”

And to their credit, this dude said… and I absolute paraphrase the shit out of this from some semi Viet, semi English drivel from my memory years ago… “Ok. Ok man. Look. Yeah, your PowerBook is totally messed up. We’re sorry. What do you want ?”

And I had apparently already worked it out with my friend prior and I said “I want 5 million Vietnamese Dong.. ($250 USD) for your acquisition of my hardware that is now broken or gone… plus my original ($150 USD) repair fee refunded to me, or I’ll call the police and tell them the story and see what they say.” And then I stared at him menacingly and I handed my phone out in my hand to my friend who was crossing his arms looking menacingly like a badass spoiled government kid…. and we stared it out for a few seconds and then there was some brief conferring in hushed tones… and then…

The guy agreed to my terms, and wrote me a receipt for the refund of the repair cost and the purchase of the now defunct hardware and counted it out in cash.

No… read it again. I kid you fucking not. The guy WROTE OFF my 11 year old PowerBook for $250 USD due to his company’s own damage and refunded the entire $150 repair cost and handed it to me in cash WITH A FUCKING RECEIPT.

And I was like “Oh… well… I’m ok then. Thanks for fixing that up. I loved that Mac, but you know… time to let go… thanks for coming good for your screwups”.

I’ve got to say, that was one of my better “Apple Service Agent” repair stories over the years. They didn’t all end like that, but that’s one that was pretty cool.

I miss the laptop but the store…, to their credit…, gave me back slighty more than its adjusted net worth in cost in parts and time, and that’s fucking Amazing and more than most shops would do in many countries, and it’s just because I made a huge fuss and threatened to involve the law and bring them down upon a shop supposedly ripping someone off. You just have to be a bit of hardass and say “No man. Enough is enough. You broke it and I’m calling the cops if you don’t fix this now”.

Respect, little fake Apple store. You weren’t the first or the last shady repairers I ever dealt with, and I even have some funny video stories of some others, but thank you for a modicum of decency …

But HERE’s ANOTHER WAY SHITTIER ONE FROM VIETNAM RIGHT HERE that Louis Rossmann would be proud of, where my Vietnamese speaking, non-technical wife demonstrated how to do the “unthinkably difficult” Apple Service Agent task of pulling the unremovable glass screen off with a couple of suction cups…

HAH. Yeah. In your face to that store who wanted like $600 USD to replace a screen that required nothing more than pulling off with some household objects, removal of a few screws, some peering and staring, and then cleaning a freaking LCD ribbon cable and then reassembly… something even an IDIOT could do in his bedroom with no tools… Yeah, we did it at home with some stuffed toys and a $2 toolkit from the corner store. No freaking schematics. No Apple repair certification. Just a few hours, a couple of beers, youtube, a screwdriver, and some stuffed toys, in full Louis Rossmann style, except as total dumbasses who had never seen the inside of an iMac, we pulled it apart, I looked at all the cable routes and worked out what each thing did, inspected the motherboard and went “I should probably just clean and reattach this screen connnector and see what happens” and as shown right here in this video.. that’s how I saved $600 by not letting some shop screw me for an expensive imported screen when I just had a dirty ribbon cable… and I plugged my own little non-authorised repair biz that I run with some friends to save people from overpriced bullshit.

And there we go..

That’s a FEW stories about “defending my consumer rights” against “Apple repairers” or some fake-ass Samsung stores that I pursued in South East Asia tooth and nail until I won… just as I do everywhere. If you can do it in lawless Chinatown in Malaysia or in HCMC in Vietnam, you can do it anywhere. Just know your rights and go to the police or the appropriate courts and file the paperwork and say what happened and if you are persistent and thorough, you will beat the scammers and liars. You can always beat scammers and liars. Anywhere. I’ve known that my whole life and I’ve been practicing that my whole life, ever since my first court battle when I was 15 years old and I took time off after math class and drove to the court house and sued some asshole who tried to cheat me and I won.

It doesn’t matter where you are in this world, your home country or a foreign land when they don’t speak your language. Report when you are cheated, robbed or lied to, with the utmost veracity, even if you get the money back somehow later… you must report the crime and make sure that people like you are not cheated in the future. You don’t get anything in this world without escalating your problem and raising your voice to the authorities until you are heard. If you can do it in Communist Vietnam then you can do it in New York, Johannesburg, or rural Australia. And I have, and I’ve always seen success.

This entry was posted in Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *