MALAYSIA: In recent times, there has been a disturbing surge in incidents involving scams related to “black magic.”
One such incident unfolded in June, involving a 72-year-old Malaysian woman in Johor Bahru who narrowly avoided becoming a victim of a “pukau” or black magic scam.
According to a report by The Star, the elderly woman, identified only as Tan, was at a local wet market when she was approached by three strangers.
The initial encounter occurred as Tan was loading items into her car, and a woman approached her, seemingly distressed, asking for information about a physician for her husband.
Suspicion crept in when another woman appeared, offering to recommend a physician.
Despite feeling uneasy, Tan followed them as they led her into a secluded alley.
A third woman joined them, claiming to be the daughter-in-law of the physician.
It was at this point that Tan’s guard began to drop.
The third woman cast a dark shadow over Tan’s family by suggesting that bad luck had befallen them.
She proposed that they relocate to a quieter place.
Strangely, Tan divulged personal details, including information about her children, savings, and jewelry.
The situation escalated as the third woman instructed Tan to return home and place all her valuables into a paper bag filled with uncooked rice.
This bag was to be handed over to her for a ritual meant to dispel the supposed bad luck.
Fortunately, Tan’s ordeal took an unexpected turn as she was compelled to excuse herself due to a sudden stomachache.
This timely exit spared her from falling victim to the scam.
In another incident, a 68-year-old woman named Ng was not as fortunate. She encountered three strangers in their 40s and 50s at a different wet market on 3 June, and their interactions ultimately led to her losing approximately RM40,000 (US$8,800) in savings and jewelry.
The scam unfolded in stages as the first woman in the group inquired about where to purchase Chinese herbs.
Subsequently, a second woman claimed knowledge of a “sifu” or master who could provide free treatment. To further manipulate Ng, they offered to drive her to see the sifu when she mentioned her husband’s illness.
Upon entering their car, Ng noticed another woman inside, who continued the ruse by warning her of impending misfortune befalling her children.
They coerced Ng into returning home to place her money and jewelry into a paper bag, promising a ritual to ward off bad luck.
The scammers instructed Ng to clutch the paper bag while chanting her children’s names until they left.
However, to Ng’s dismay, she later discovered that the bag contained only two bottles of water and a small bag of rice.
Deceptive tactics of black magic syndicates targeting elderly individuals in Malaysia
On 7 August, authorities in Malaysia’s Johor state issued a warning to the public regarding the activities of black magic syndicates that frequently target elderly individuals at markets and supermarkets.
The Johor police chief, Comm Datuk Kamarul Zaman Mamat, revealed that the modus operandi of these suspects involves initiating random conversations with their victims, with the aim of gathering information about their backgrounds and families.
Subsequently, the suspects exploit this information by suggesting that the victims’ loved ones are in peril or that they face impending misfortune unless they seek help, typically from a shaman, to alter their fate.
Once the victims are ensnared in this web of deception, they are escorted to secluded areas, such as houses or vehicles, away from the public eye.
There, they are coerced into surrendering their money and valuables under the guise of a “treatment” or “ritual.”
Comm Kamarul Zaman pointed out that victims often claim to be unaware of their actions as they willingly hand over their assets.
By the time they regain their senses, the suspects have already vanished with the stolen valuables.
He urged the public, particularly senior citizens, to remain vigilant when in public spaces, especially when approached by unfamiliar individuals.
Comm Kamarul Zaman emphasized the importance of verifying such requests with family members or authorities before parting with belongings or making payments to strangers.
Videos of “black magic” scam go viral
Lately, several videos have been circulating on social media, shedding light on similar scams that have targeted tourists, particularly at popular tourist destinations.
One such video was shared on TikTok by user “mercedes1jz”, who claimed to have witnessed two men, presumably foreigners wearing black sunglasses, attempting to hypnotize a tourist.
In the video, the two men struck up a conversation with a tourist from India, inquiring about currency exchange in India.
According to the TikTok user, these scammers operated in Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, and their scheme involved persuading victims to display cash from their home countries.
Following this, the scammers would open their wallets, which they purportedly claimed contained black magic, before attempting to enchant their victims.
Another TikTok video demonstrating similar scam tactics gained significant attention when posted by a Malaysian content creator.
At the time of writing, it had garnered 2.9 million views.
The video revealed events that took place during her vacation in Italy and drew attention to the prevalence of a multitude of fraudsters and con artists roaming the streets of well-frequented tourist destinations.
The content creator, known as Nini, reminded her viewers to always stay vigilant especially when travelling abroad.
Distinguishing ‘pukau’ from hypnosis
Although some victims of these scams have described feeling “hypnotized,” medical professionals from the Malaysian Society of Clinical Hypnosis (MSCH) clarified that the scammers do not employ actual hypnosis.
Dr. Thema Abdul Majid, President of MSCH, explained that “pukau” or being put under a spell is distinct from hypnosis.
“Pukau” is typically utilized with the intention of manipulation and harm.
Techniques such as persuasive language, physical contact, intense eye contact, and shock tactics are employed to instill fear in victims, convincing them that they face grave dangers unless they comply.
This often involves relinquishing their valuables in exchange for purported rituals.
Thema stressed that the actions of “pukau” scammers have unfairly tainted the reputation of hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is sought for addressing various health concerns such as anxiety, phobias, weight management, smoking cessation, pain management, and more.
Patients willingly participate in hypnotherapy sessions and remain in control throughout.
It is a consent-based process, allowing patients to open their eyes at any time and reject anything that does not resonate with them.
It does not involve putting patients into a trance with the snap of fingers.
Thema also noted that formal training for clinical hypnotherapy was introduced in Malaysia in 2006, highlighting the legitimate and beneficial uses of this practice.
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