There’s cash in vouchers

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government gives students RM250 in 1Malaysia Book Vouchers (BB1M).

The students take them to bookshops, hand them over and get anything between RM190 and RM230 in hard cash.

The bookshops then report that they had sold books for RM250 and claim the money from the Government.

However, the books listed are actually those that they have not been able to get rid of.

With the RM250 in their cash registers, the bookshops then take those unwanted books and dump them in second hand bookshops at cheap rates – thus making profits twice from books they can’t even sell.

They get between RM60 and RM20 from the vouchers and more money from the secondhand bookshops.

It’s a scam that makes bookshops rich. In some cases they use agents, usually college students, to get more of their fellow students into the scam. The agents get a cut, too.

“The vouchers are scanned to be used to purchase books that do not sell,” said a 22-year-old college student who was once an agent.

The student, who only wanted to be known as Warren, said the books would be purchased under the name of the person who had sold off his book vouchers.

“Say, for example, that the vouchers are under your name.

“That means the agents will use the vouchers to ‘buy’ books that are still in stock for the sole purpose of clearing them,” Warren explained.

“The bookshops have to clear the old stock of books or magazines. If they don’t, they are wasting space.”

He alleged that after the old stockpiles were ‘sold off’ with the vouchers, bookstores would re-sell the books at secondhand rates.

“This kind of activity is quite hard to catch as the Government won’t actually check the reserves before and after the BB1M season,” he said.

The agents post advertisements on social media sites saying they are interested in buying vouchers off students.

A set of vouchers is RM250 and the agents offer prices depending on the number of sets available for sale.

“The agents will pay you slightly more if you give them a larger number of sets; around 10 or more sets.

“They do this to encourage sellers to get more vouchers from friends, while the agent is paid commission for the amount he manages to purchase,” Warren said.

Selling off the book vouchers is quite simple. All a potential seller has to do is find the post on the social media site and comment “PM” (private message).

The agent would then contact the potential seller and the details would be ironed out – where to meet and how many sets there are for sale.

During the meeting, the agent authenticates the voucher and pays the money.

The selling of the vouchers is not restricted to Kuala Lumpur, as two students from a private university in Perak confirmed that the book vouchers were being sold there as well.

Students at a public university in Selangor also admitted selling their vouchers.

Warren said he was not surprised, adding that the selling of the book voucher is being done in all states, although it is illegal.

Implemented by the Government at the start of Budget 2012, the BB1M is a book assistance for students who are in Form Six and higher learning institutions.

According to the 2016 BB1M Guideline released by the Higher Education Ministry, the vouchers are non-transferable, cannot be converted to cash or sold to third parties.

Source: The Star