Singapore — It seems that scammers who pretend to be officials from China are at it again, with one of the latest victims being a resident of Bedok who loses S$500,000.
While this kind of scam is not new, someone has for the first time been sent to physically harass the victim. The woman who visited the Bedok resident has been arrested and the incident is under investigation, according to the Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao.
The woman, who was dressed in a white blouse, black skirt and high-heeled shoes during the visit, was filmed on security camera, which led to her identification and subsequent arrest.
She attempted to pass herself off as an official from China, or a gong an (公安), when she went to see the Bedok resident on Friday (Oct 23).
Before she arrived at his home, however, he had already received a call from another scammer, who told him to make a sizeable payment. The woman, dressed like a “real” police officer, was sent in order to look more convincing and persuasive to the resident, who ended up transferring half a million dollars to the scam syndicate.
However, after the woman left, the victim realised what had happened and filed a police report.
In July last year, the police issued an advisory concerning the emergence of the “China Officials” impersonation scam, following 65 reports of such scams cheating people out of at least S$4.8 million.
At that time, channelnewsasia.com carried a story of a Malaysian who went to Liang Court in order to transfer S$1,200 after being told to do so by a Chinese “official”. Just as he was about to transfer the money, however, police officers who had seen that he was agitated spoke to him and managed to prevent him from being scammed.
How the scams work
According to the police at that time, these types of scams involve individuals who pretend to be either staff of courier companies or officials from government offices who tell the victims any of the following stories:
- 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 above scenarios, the scammers 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 added: “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.”
What to do in case you find yourself in this situation
The police have given specific instructions on 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