By Anne Wong I work as a volunteer for a Facebook group, the Caremongers \u2013 a community based group. It\u2019s where people can choose to either volunteer themselves to help out during the MCO, or those in need may ask for help and the community will act accordingly.\u00a0 We are not an NGO group, but it is an initiative among the neighbourhood to help out those in need within their own districts. Every day we received hundreds of requests; from single mums who can\u2019t pay her rent, to a migrant worker who can\u2019t afford groceries.\u00a0 We get them all the time, and of course, we will do our best to help them.\u00a0 However, sometimes we find that there are cases when the person who requested for help is not actually in need.\u00a0 One time, we received a case from a mother who was pleading for help as she barely had enough groceries to feed her family.\u00a0 By the time a volunteer arrived with the goods, he was shocked to find a large house with two cars and there stood that lady.\u00a0 She smiled sheepishly when we reprimanded her. And her case wasn\u2019t the first we\u2019ve come across over time.\u00a0\u00a0 That\u2019s where my team comes in. We\u2019re the ones who are tasked at sniffing out the fake ones from the genuine cases. Here\u2019s how we do it: \tGetting as Much Data as Possible We would first ask the applicants to fill up a Google form, which requires them to provide their full names, IC or passport numbers, and the mobile numbers of everyone in the household.\u00a0 Once that is done, all data will be uploaded into a Google sheet where volunteers can view it.\u00a0 When the sheets are filled, we would then set an algorithm to detect duplicate names and other info, to identify people who would try and repeat applications.\u00a0 \tDivide and Conquer We have 2 WhatsApp group chats, one looking for aid and another for volunteers. That way, volunteers won\u2019t be bombarded by hundreds of messages.\u00a0 In my case, I would call up the applicants to have a chat with them, get to know their situations and determine if they\u2019re real or not.\u00a0 What I observed is that the scammers are the ones who would actually be very diligent about calling up, asking when we\u2019ll be able to send over the money or food and will continue to follow up.\u00a0 On the other hand, the desperate cases wouldn\u2019t phone up as much, mostly because they\u2019re actually really shy to ask for help, but they would be helpful in providing any proof of their situation. Sometimes, I would even go as far as to call up the developers for the case of \u2018Kongsi Houses\u2019 (shared homes where construction workers resides), asking about their workers\u2019 situation and whether they\u2019re actually being paid.\u00a0 You\u2019d be surprised that some of these workers are actually still paid regularly, and even have food in their pantry, but they would still try and ask for food just so that they have more savings.\u00a0 We would even go over to the place to check out the area to see if it exists and check on the condition of the workers.\u00a0 \tVisual Proof Most of the time, we would video call them randomly so that we can see their situation at home.\u00a0 As we are in the midst of the MCO, there is no reason why the applicant wouldn\u2019t be at home most of the time.\u00a0 Some of the scammers may try to avoid our calls, giving various excuses such as being in the mosque, going out for groceries, etc\u2026 But we will try again at another time, and we will never tell them when. It also helps to verify the cases when we could ask them to show us the interior of the house as well as outside so that we could see if their address is real.\u00a0 We might even go as far as to ask them to show us their pantry to see if they really are running out of food or not.\u00a0 And if the person is living with other people in the house, we would ask them to send over a selfie with all the people whom they claim are living there as well.\u00a0 If they try and claim groceries for 10 people, we would expect to see 10 of them in the picture.\u00a0 Never assume they are all scammers Of course, while some cases may have been vetted out at the first stage, with the assumption that it\u2019s a scam, I would occasionally call up some of these rejected cases to see if they really are genuine or not. And surprisingly, some of them are.\u00a0 There was this one time I met a lady, who\u2019s initial application seemed a little aggressive, so the volunteers struck her out, not wanting to deal with her.\u00a0 But when I called her up, I realized that she was actually suffering from poor mental health and was really in distress.\u00a0 After helping her to calm down, I then learned that she was living alone, had no job, but was being fed by a kind neighbour who offered to cook for her.\u00a0 But of course, after a while, she felt really shy to go there, especially when she had nothing to offer and only came by to eat. After verifying her case, we managed to bring some groceries for her and she was so grateful for it.\u00a0 She even called us up some time later saying that someone had given her some extra groceries and wanted to know if there\u2019s anyone else in need who might want to have them.\u00a0 She was insistent on giving them away, saying that she was once in that situation, and wanted to give what little she has. Only 2% of all cases are scams Truth is, after some 608 cases, there's less than 12 dishonest cases (that are discovered). That\u2019s less than 2% of all cases received.\u00a0 It hit me that we might be putting a disproportionate amount of resources dedicated to what might be just a minor issue.\u00a0 It's minor when I look at our numbers for sure, but it's really major emotional stuff when we get cheated. However, by giving food aid, we already filter out most dishonest cases.\u00a0 What's there to be dishonest about for basic food items that typically don't even cost RM50 unless you really don't have the food or money? At the end of the day, we love what we do, and when we see the gratitude of families, it gives us the encouragement to keep doing what we do. For more stories like this, read:\u00a0 5 Alarming Scams that Fooled Malaysians Over and Over Again and I\u2019m A Rohingya Who Lived In Malaysia For 20 Years \u2014 Here\u2019s What We Really Want From Malaysia.