Singapore—On July 1, Monday, the Singapore Police Force issued an advisory concerning the emergence of the China Officials impersonation scam, since there have been 65 reports of such scams cheating people out of at least S$4.8 million.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) carried a story of a Malaysian man who went to Liang Court in order to transfer the amount of S$1,200, as he had been told by a Chinese ‘official’ to do do. Fortunately, just as he was going to transfer the money, police officers who had seen how agitated he was, came to talk to him and managed to prevent him from being scammed.
According to him, he received a call from a woman saying she was from Singtel, who went on to tell him that his phone number was stolen and was being used for illegal activities and that his line would get cut off if he didn’t pay by a certain time.
She also told him that he was under investigation from Chinese officials, and sure enough, a while later he got another phone call, this time with a call code from China. The supposed official told the Malaysian that a woman who had been arrested in China had implicated him in criminal activity.
He was sent a warrant card through WhatsApp and was told that money had been deposited to his account, which the police were investigating. The ‘official’ then told him to move his savings to China via a bitcoin machine located at Liang Court. Failure to do this would mean his phone line would be terminated and that he could not go back to Malaysia.
Fear, panic, and the desire to prove that he was innocent drove the Malaysian to follow the ‘official’s’ instructions.
How the scams work
These types of scams involve individuals who pretend to be either staff members of courier companies or officials from government offices who tell the victims any of the following stories, according to the statement.
- A mobile number registered in their name was involved in a crime;
- A parcel under their name containing illegal goods was detained;
- There was a pending case in court against them; and/or
- They had committed a criminal offence and were required to assist in investigations
After notifying victims of any of the scenarios above, the scammer will ask for their personal information, especially bank account details, which includes internet banking credentials as well as One-Time Passwords, which according to them would be used for investigation purposes.
The Police warned in the statement, “Recipient Victims might be shown a copy of a warrant for their arrest from the China Police and were threatened with imprisonment if they did not cooperate. Subsequently, the recipients’ victims would discover that monies had been transferred from their bank account to unknown bank accounts.”
Another way that these scammers work is through telling victims to scan a QR code and then transfer an amount of money using a Bitcoin vending machine.
Afterward, “these scammers would ask recipients to scan the QR code sent to them at the Bitcoin vending machine before depositing their money into the machine. There were also some cases where the recipients’ victims were asked to withdraw money from their bank accounts to be handed over to a ‘Government Officer’ for verification purposes.
The scammers kept the recipients’ victims on the phone line to ensure that they did not have the opportunity to verify the authenticity veracity of the call.”
What to do in case you find yourself in this situation
The Police then gave specific instructions as to what to do when receiving calls of this nature:
- Don’t panic – Ignore the calls and caller’s instructions. No government agency will request for personal details or transfer of money over the phone or through automated voice machines. Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act as you may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment.
- Don’t believe – Scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask the actual phone number and display a different number. Calls that appear to be from a local number may not actually be made from Singapore. If you receive a suspicious call from a local number, hang up, wait a while, then call the number back to check the validity of the request.
- Don’t give – Do not provide your name, identification number, passport details, contact details, bank account or credit card details. Such information is useful to criminals.
Anyone who wishes to give information concerning these scams should call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. Those needing urgent help from the Police should call 999. -/TISG