SINGAPORE: The police have warned members of the public about a sophisticated fraud scheme that has cost victims millions of dollars. Scammers are employing a devious technique involving malware installation on victims’ mobile phones, unauthorised online banking transactions, and the subsequent restoration of the phone to factory settings, leaving victims stunned by the theft.

In the first half of this year alone, a staggering sum of at least S$10 million has been pilfered from the bank accounts of over 750 unsuspecting individuals. The victims, largely drawn in by enticing advertisements on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, fell prey to the criminals after initiating contact with the apparent sellers of various services.

The modus operandi of this nefarious operation begins when victims engage with these online sellers. After establishing contact, victims are then provided with an Android Package Kit (APK) link, courtesy of the seller, under the pretence of downloading an app. The catch is that, for access to the supposed service, victims are required to make a $5 deposit via Paynow.

However, this seemingly innocuous act becomes the trigger for a malicious chain of events orchestrated by the fraudsters. Upon downloading and installing the provided APK, the scammers surreptitiously infiltrate the victim’s mobile device with malware. This malware is designed to covertly capture the victim’s online banking credentials, providing the perpetrators with unrestricted access to their financial accounts.

Once inside the victim’s online banking system, the fraudsters execute unauthorised transactions, siphoning funds without detection. After the theft, they employ another cunning move by resetting the victim’s mobile phone to its factory settings. This step wipes away all traces of the malicious activity, rendering victims unaware of the breach.

Victims often remain blissfully ignorant of the unauthorised transactions until they contact their respective banks or reinstall their banking applications on their mobile devices. By this time, their hard-earned money has already vanished into the hands of the fraudsters.

The authorities are urging the public to exercise extreme caution when engaging with online sellers, especially those found on social media platforms. Additionally, they advise against downloading any APK links or apps from unverified sources and, above all, to be vigilant regarding unsolicited requests for personal or financial information. It remains crucial for individuals to remain vigilant and prioritise cybersecurity to safeguard their finances and personal information.