Friday, 13 January 2017

Beware your new RFID credit cards


Christmas 2016. My wife received a Christmas present on the 25th of December last year. Not quite the sort of present that you would expect on Christmas Day, though. We were just about to leave the Nandaka Vihara Buddhist meditation centre at Cherok Tokun on that day when she received a text message on her mobile at 1.48pm. Two minutes later, another text message came in.

Both SMS carried similar messages: that her credit card had been used for two transactions. Now, the problem was that her credit card was with her, in her purse. She told me about the messages which, at first, I dismissed as a scam message. Then she showed the messages to me and I became alarmed. These weren't scam messages; these were real notification messages from UOB Bank.

I asked her to telephone the Call Centre number on the back of her card. At 2pm, she spoke to one of the call centre staff there to report the incident and immediately, her card was stopped. When we got home, I deduced that the transactions had taken place at the Swissotel The Stamford and my wife decided to call the hotel in Singapore to alert them, even telling the hotel manager of the time that the transactions had taken place.

Not satisfied with these actions, she later called the bank's Call Centre again to seek assurance that her card had indeed been blocked. She also inquired whether a Police report should be made but was told that there wasn't a need for that. However two days later when she spoke to someone at Bank Negara Malaysia's branch in Penang, she was advised to lodge a Police report. So we had one done at the Perda Police station and with this report filed, she then emailed a formal written complaint to the UOB Bank's Customer Advocacy & Service Quality department, with carbon copies to Bank Negara Malaysia and, for good measure, the Consumer Association of Penang too.

Her parting words to UOB Bank's CASQ were, "I shall hope that you will commence investigation immediately to determine how my credit card account came to be debited with these two transactions. I am very concerned and wish to say here that I am not responsible, and shall not be responsible, for these transactions and will not be paying for them." Definitely. Why should she be paying for them when these fraudulent transactions were not made by her?

This was a new RFID-based credit card that she had received not too long ago. The activation of this card was made in September, I think, and since then, she hasn't been making much use of it, preferring to use another credit card that offered her more benefits. So, this card had remained mostly in her purse. How then could her credit card details be stolen? How could her credit card be duplicated or cloned and used physically? Aren't there security features on a credit card that can alert merchants if it is cloned? How do banks account for the unused cards in their possession? How can we safeguard our credit card details in future? During the process of delivering new credit cards to the cardholders, what steps have the banks taken to ensure that the courier service personnel are trustworthy? What sort of measures are there to protect consumers who are victims of fraudulent card usages? These are just a few of the more urgent questions that need to be addressed not only by us, the consumers, but also by the banks and the authorities.

Anyway, on Wednesday, UOB Bank telephoned my wife to inform her that the Swissotel in Singapore has not put in their claims for the two transactions. Presumably, based on my wife alerting them on Christmas Day itself, they might have already taken action on the person or persons who had tried to book themselves into the five-star hotel. I really hope so. And I hope the hotel had also reported the incident to the Police over there. Such frausters should be caught and put away.

As a footnote, I must add that one of my friends in Kuala Lumpur was also hit by this RFID credit card scam recently. Also, my son told me that one of his superiors in the company he's with was also affected. So apparently, my wife's was not an isolated case. We all have to take real good care of the credit and debit cards in our possession as these are now all RFID-based cards.

A second footnote: the Police constable at the Police station told my wife that this was the first such case that had come to her (that is, the constable) notice. Perhaps, victims have not been making reports to the Police. In my opinion, they should because once more reports come in, the commercial crime division may be in a better position to pressure the banks to tighten up on their security measures especially during the delivery process which I suspect may be the weakest link.




Saturday, 31 December 2016

Having a happy new year?


Here's wishing everyone 
a very Happy New Year 2017




Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Li Chun (立春), 2017


Ever since I've been writing about Li Chun (立春) (or Lip Chun) in this blog - which would have been in Year 2007 or 10 years ago - I've always been mentioning that this Chinese festival, signifying the Coming of Spring, falls on the fourth of February.

But apparently, this has not always been the case. I took the trouble to check up on past occurrences of Li Chun in Joey Yap's book, The Ten Thousand Year Calendar (万年历), and to my surprise, found that during the past 20th Century from Year 1900 till Year 1999, Li Chun had occurred 33 times on the fifth of February. That is a rather high percentage indeed.

There were even several cases on Li Chun falling on the fifth of February for three consecutive years but as the century rolled along, this became less frequent and the Coming of Spring last fell on a fifth of February in 1980. In the years since then, Li Chun had almost invariably fallen on the fourth of February. However, I should have been alerted that in Year 2000, Li Chun fell instead on the third of February.

But I've a good explanation for missing that fact: Yap's book was published in 2004 and it was three years later that I first became interested in knowing the time of day for every year's occurrence of Li Chun. It's now part of my household responsibility to continue with our tradition of pasting a new Chun (春) character on the rice bucket. If this Chinese character cannot be found, I suppose another auspicious character, such as a Hock (福), on the bucket will do just as well.

So what happens in Year 2017? After having written so much today about Li Chun falling on the third, fourth or fifth of February, it shouldn't surprise anyone now to learn that in Year 2017, the Coming of Spring will be on 3 February 2017 at 23.36 pm. Well before then, I'll be getting my new packet of rice and my new Chun (春) character ready for the rice bucket.

Meantime, here are my past blog entries on this Chinese festival:
Li Chun, 2016
Li Chun, 2015
Li Chun, 2014
Li Chun, 2013
Li Chun, 2012
Li Chun, 2011
Li Chun, 2010
Li Chun, 2009
Li Chun, 2008
Li Chun, 2007

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Westlands boys


When one mentions the Westlands boys, it can only mean the boys that passed through Westlands Primary School and NOT Westlands Secondary School. The Westlands Primary School was originally called Westlands School and in my book, Let the Aisles Proclaim, I had written in the notes:
The Straits Times of 30th September 1930 had reported that “In Penang a new English boys’ school at Perak Road, the Francis Light School, accommodating 500 boys was opened in January.” The earliest reference to Westlands School was in the 31st July 1934 edition of The Straits Times when Mohamed Rouse spoke in the Legislative Council of “the new Westlands School in Penang is to be opened shortly.” On 25th May 1937, the same newspaper wrote of “the Westlands School Boy Scout Troop (Third Penang) repeated their 1934 victory in a competition for junior troops for the Victoria Shield on the Empire Day sports and rally.” The three feeder schools – Hutchings School, Francis Light School and Westlands School – in turn received their intake of boys from the Wellesley Primary School. The New Straits Times of 30th May 1990 quoted a former Wellesley Primary School teacher as saying that the school started in 1929, but the school was known earlier as the Hillview Government School (Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 9th December 1930). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser of 7th October 1924 had reported that “In Penang the temporary Hillview School has been opened.”  The Straits Times of 8th December 1928 referred to “the Free School, Hutchings School and Hillview School at the present time corresponded to the upper, middle and preparatory schools of an English public school.”
When we had our pre- and post-bicentenary reunions of the Sesqui boys in Penang, we made it a point to gather round for a group picture only those old school mates who were also from Westlands School from 1960 to 1965. Our Headmaster then was K Balram and our school hall was named Cheeseman Hall. Sadly, the Westlands School in Victoria Green Road was converted into the Westlands Sports Training Centre several decades ago. Here are the two pictures.

This one was photographed at the pre-bicentenary reunion on 20 October 2016. The ones in the picture are Ling Heong, Chye Chye, Teik Wah, myself, Oon Hup, Seng Oo, Kar Keat and Kah Kheng.

This picture was taken at the school. More people turned up and consequently, more old Westlands School friends surfaced. From left, Kah Kheng, Chye Chye, Sugumaran, Siang Jin, Oon Hup, Ewe Leong, Subramaniam, Hean Guan and Teik Kooi. From right, Ling Heong, myself, Seng Oo, Teik Wah, Mokzani and Kumaraveloo. I can't recall the other two in the photograph.





Thursday, 15 December 2016

The bicentenary reunions


Finally, I remember that we had some fabulous reunions of the Sesqui boys, pre- and post-bicentenary celebrations. The first of three was on 20 October 2016, held at Kim Guan's condominium unit at Gurney Drive. Quite a lot of us turned up and many drank themselves under the table. I turned up for what was supposed to be a short hello-goodbye but it eventually became a long-drawn hour's stay. Thinking back, how could I ever think about getting away with only a short 20-minute stay at that party? No way!

Okay, I shall do my best to identify all the old farts in this picture. That's Derek hidden behind Chin Chuan, followed by Chye Chye, Swee Poh, Teik Wah, Choi Choon, myself, Ling Heong, Nai Kwang, Oon Hup, Andrew, Benny, Kah Theang, Kim Bock, to be confirmed, Soon Chye, Hee Lye, Chim Jin, Sanan, Seng Oo, Thuan Chye, Thiruchelvam, Michael (up). Kheng Hock (down), Kah Kheng, Hean Guan and Kim Guan.

The second reunion was held at the school canteen on 22 October 2016 morning where we were treated to a nasi kandar lunch cooked by Mohd Noor. He was too busy looking after the food that he failed to join us in any of the group photographs. I had to arrive late for this reunion, having been caught up in a traffic jam coming out from Bukit Mertajam, and missed the singing of the School Rally. Still, I was among the first to receive a commemorative T-shirt.

As this group of old farts was even larger than the previous one, I will not attempt to identify everyone in the picture. But we had the presence of Johnny Ooi, our old History teacher and hockey coach. That's him sitting in the picture, the odd one out.

As if two reunions were not enough, we celebrated again over dinner on 22 October 2016 at the E&O Hotel in Farquhar Street, George Town. Another round of merry-making and meeting yet other old faces that could not make it to the morning affair at the school.

No point trying to identify the old farts here too but I love all of you, whoever you are!


Monday, 12 December 2016

Playing some chess again


Many thanks to The Old Frees' Association for releasing funds to sponsor the OFA chess team despite us having busted this year's budget for chess activities. But we have just had a whale of a time competing in the Penang Chess League 2016 at the Red Rock Hotel in George Town.

The team was very basic - comprising just Chuah Heng Meng, Chan Kim Chai, Terry Ong and myself - and we were not expected to make waves in the event. After all, there were a lot of high profile teams in the tournament and they were all competing for the top prizes. As for ourselves, we only wanted to finish as high as possible in the table standings. Such is our playing ambition nowadays. And except for our match-up in the first round and possibly the last round too, our opponents were rather normal and of average strength.

I wouldn't want to say much about our opponents save for two mentions. One, my beating Tan Khai Boon in the first round and then discovering later that he was a former national champion, which I had entirely forgotten, and two, Heng Meng's crushing defeat of long-time friend and foe Eric Cheah in the final round. I would think these were the two most satisfying games of all. Heng Meng was practically bubbling with joy after the game although he did say that he had beaten Eric before. As for me, this was my first and only encounter with Khai Boon but like Terry said in a whatsapp group message later, "Khai Boon has learned to fear Seng Sun's Benko." Unfortunately, I cannot take too much credit for this game, seeing that my opponent did come late and left himself with far too little time to settle down properly.

 First round. Despite my early victory against Khai Boon, my team members lost. Thus, we lost the match.

Eighth and final round. In spite of my loss, my team members carved out a wonderful collective victory to enable us to finish in a remarkable, unexpected, seventh position

It was so sweet to be able to appear on the stage and be acknowledged for our valiant efforts.



Friday, 9 December 2016

A little adventure


There are still opportunities for little adventures if one goes about to look for them. As for me, I had one little adventure just yesterday. My wife went to the island in the morning to attend a whole-day seminar on one of the hotels there. That she had to attend this seminar came at a moment's notice; in fact, she only came to know that she had to attend it just the day before. Unfortunately, we had already made plans to go out to the island late in the afternoon to visit a relative in hospital.

We were in a small quandary. The seminar meant that we would have to drive two cars to the island, me going out in the afternoon, and then meeting up somewhere after five o'clock. But I didn't fancy driving two cars. Not with traffic congestion on the roads during evening rush hour. So I came up with a plan. Tell you what, I informed my wife, you drive out to the island for the seminar and I shall find my way there.

What I had in mind was a train-cum-ferry combination trip. It's a do-able mode of travel to the island, especially now when the train services are so much more frequent that the near-so-distant past. So at 3.15 pm, my car was already parked at the train station parking lot and I had purchased my KTM Komuter Utara ticket to Butterworth. Cost me 60 cents only because I was eligible for the senior citizen discount. Was pleasantly surprised to find no queue at the Komuter Utara ticket counter whereas there was a deep line of people queuing up for the ETS tickets.

Passengers alighting from the KTM Komuter Utara train at Butterworth Station - Starpic

The Komuter train arrived promptly at 4.05 pm, right on the dot. That was another pleasant surprise. Scores of people got on board the train with me. The journey to Butterworth was uneventful, took about 10 minutes, passing through familiar scenery and the new railway bridge across the Prai River. I sat and observed the people in the carriage.

Previously when one wanted to go to the ferry terminus from the train station, it was a simple matter to walk along a long sloping corridor to the ferry ticket counter. Unfortunately, all that has changed. When I exited the train station, there was a long flight of steps up and then down. Walk a short distance and then along a new slope to the ferry counter. I wonder how old people and the disabled would be able to climb up and down just to connect from the train station to the ferry terminus. with my constant walking speed, I took almost 15 minutes to the ticket counter where I had to fork out RM1.20 in coin - no discount given for people my age - before the attendant allowed me into the waiting area. 

Darn it, I had missed the departing ferry and had to wait for the next one. How long would it take for the next ferry to arrive, i wondered. With only four ferries plying from pier to pier, the ferry efficiency had become notoriously bad. I just hoped that the next ferry would arrive soon. By 4.50 pm, I was boarded the Pulau Payar ferry together with countless foot passengers and about 18 cars that somehow found their way onto the upper deck. And by 5.10 pm, I was already making my way to the exit on the island. 

The waiting area at the ferry terminus in Butterworth. It got crowded very fast.

The cars went into the ferry first, followed by the foot passengers. When the ferry arrives at the other end, it would be the foot passengers that disembark first, followed by the vehicles

The wooden seats were all quite occupied.

The more impatient foot passengers wandered to the front of the ferry even while it was still some distance away from docking.

Another look back into the ferry as I readied myself to disembark.

A breath-taking view of the cruise ships at Swettenham Pier from the terminus.

Some things never change: the stall holders selling magazines, drinks, fried banana fritters and a newer cafe.

I crossed the overhead bridge to the other side of Weld Quay and walked through the old foot court to Victoria Street. Then onto China Street Ghaut before ending outside the OCBC Bank in Beach Street.

Rush hour traffic along Weld Quay

The food court in what used to be the old Market Street Ghaut. It was all rather quiet at 5.30 pm. Anyway, mind the gaping hole in the ground!

Although this building is now occupied by the Customs department, it used to be the Malayan Railway building on the island. But one had to cross the Channel to catch the train in Prai.

All the buildings on this side of China Street Ghaut, stretching from the present CIMB Bank building right until the Weld Quay junction, used to belong to the Chinese towkay, Yeap Chor Ee. But the UAB Building was sold off to the United Asian Bank when it opened a branch in Penang.

The lift inside the Georgetown Chambers, together with the one inside the CIMB Bank building opposite, are remnants from the past.

Soon, my wife arrived to pick me up, not outside OCBC Bank but Maybank. She lost her way and turned into the wrong road. Now, the big question is whether I would repeat this trip to the island. All things considered, I think I would if the same circumstances occur again.



Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Short trip


My wife and I made a quick overnight trip to the Klang Valley on Monday. She had a rare seminar to attend at the Subway Resort & Spa and wanted me to accompany her. Thus, we took the afternoon ETS train down to Kuala Lumpur, reaching there at about seven o'clock, and then switching to the LRT to the Paramount station where one of my cousins was waiting for us. Over dinner, I passed him a copy of my book, Let the Aisles Proclaim.

All my pictures were taken with my mobile phone; hence the quality left a lot to be desired. Here, there was an unusually reddish hue which I could not correct with software. I would suspect that the phone camera had been fooled by the colour of our T-shirts and the table cloth. By a coincidence, we were all in red, as if we have pre-planned it. 

He was to drop us off at the 33 Boutique Hotel in Sunway. This is just a small hotel opposite the Sunway Pyramid, a four-storey one-shoplot hotel with 30 rooms that were big enough for a queen-size bed or two twin beds. But I must say that the hotel is very decent and very clean, presumably because they had opened just nine months ago. What I liked about my room on the second level was the optimised use of the bathroom. The shower head was well positioned to allow for the water to spray onto the sliding door but the shower curtain prevented the water from spilling into the bedroom. Very cool indeed. And there was a lift to service all four floors. There was no breakfast but with eateries all nearby, breakfast wasn't exactly missed. The only disappointment was the lack of decent television channels.

On the next day while my wife was attending the seminar, I went to the Amcorp Mall. I knew that this place wasn't a premier shopping centre but I wanted to visit Joe's Mac and browse through his collection of second-hand records. Before I knew it, I had spent almost five hours there and came away with a handful of old records. I haven't played them yet since returning but I hope the sound quality will be decent.

Lunch was with one of my old schoolmates, Kee Thuan Chye. Spent about an hour talking exchanging opinions about the sorry state of the country here. We agreed that unfortunately, there's little hope of a solution unless the present regime loses at the next general elections. At four in the afternoon, I went back to the Sunway Resort to meet my wife and then we dashed off to catch the ETS train back to Bukit Mertajam, us reaching home after midnight.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Surrendering a banking licence?


I saw this notice in the Star newspaper two days ago (on 29 Nov 2016) but I don't know how to interpret its meaning or implication to the country. I'm confused: why would an international bank give up its banking licence in Malaysia, even if it is an off-shore banking institution operating in Labuan? How often does it ever happen in this country?

An update: Citibank has since then issued a clarification. They said that they had obtained permission to open a full-fledged commercial bank in Labuan and as such, the offshore banking licence would no longer be required. All their clients would be transferred to the commercial bank.




Monday, 28 November 2016

Four against the wall


We, four Old Frees, found ourselves up against the wall at a KRI Morning Talk organised by Khazanah Research Institute at the old Bangunan UAB in China Street Ghaut, George Town, this afternoon. Who is the odd man out? Must be me because the other three are Old Frees prominent in their own respective fields. Me, I'm only a busybody blogger.




Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bangkok, part two


Our second day in Bangkok took us to the Grand Palace. The whole place had been cordoned off because the body of the late King of Thailand was lying in state in one of the stately buildings in the Grand Palace complex. Thus, security was very tight as we had to move shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists and the local Thais to move past the security checkpoint. All the Thais were donned in black whereas we tourists had been advised to wear dark colours. Thus, it was very surreal to see the locals moving everywhere in the Thai capital in black clothes, even in shopping malls in the city, as if this was a common, everyday thing to do.

 Everybody's trying to go through the security checkpoint. We were requested to show our passports to the Police before we were allowed through.

 But once through, we found wide open spaces since the roads around the Grand Palace had been closed off to traffic.


 The ceremonial guards taking a rest before their turns to stand motionless at the various entrances.



 I think that I did the best impression among the five of us!

Novice monks studying in the Grand Palace

 In the evening, we were taken on a dinner cruise on board the Chao Phraya Princess. This was the pier at the River City shopping mall. 

 Hundreds of other tourists waiting for the cruise ships to arrive. There were at least five that belonged to the same company.


 Abundant food, but needless to say, we enjoyed the scenery more than the food...

 ...such as this, which is the Grand Palace at night.


On the third day of our stay in Bangkok, we were left well alone by the tour guide, it being a free-and-easy day. My fellow Old Frees who had been to Bangkok before jumped right in to a shopping frenzy while others, like my wife and I, were only beginning to discover what Bangkok had to offer in terms of shopping. We were advised to go to the Platinum fashion mall where the latest and cheapest clothes were being sold but for us to even go there, we had to pass through - and be detained for about three hours at - their 24-hour open-air weekend market. We thought it was already heaven to shop here for clothes.  








Our ultimate destination, the Platinum fashion mall. This is, of course, a paradise for women. Men will also find plentiful of new clothes in this mall. The problem with shopping here is that almost all of the shops do not have a fitting room and thus, shoppers have to take a risk with their purchases. The only consolation is that the clothes are cheap.





 Our final destination in Bangkok was to go up to the top deck of the 88-storey Baiyoke Sky Hotel where we saw a 360-degree panaramic view of the city. After that, onwards to their Rooftop Bar for a round of drinks. Cheers!