Fraud Alert on a laptop screen

SINGAPORE: A 51-year-old permanent resident, Anil Tripathi, is currently on trial for one count of dishonest misappropriation of funds not belonging to him. Over S$64,000 had been illegally transferred from the bank accounts of Mr Chiam Hock Leong, a retiree, in June 2020, into the accounts of Anil.

While police were able to recover S$49,000 from the accounts of Anil, over S$15,000 is still missing. Anil claimed he believed he had received the money from an anonymous well-wisher, and this amount of S$15,000 was sent to various people in India, his home country, with some of it used to pay debts.

Mr Chiam, now 68, said that while he had been using his computer on June 3, 2020, it suddenly turned blank. He then heard a voice telling him he was being hacked and advising him to call a certain number at Microsoft.

Panicking, he did so. A man calling himself “Shawn” and pretending to be from Microsoft got on the phone and purported to walk Mr Chiam through a process that would stop him from being hacked, while at the same time carrying out the scam. He was told by “Shawn” to turn his mobile phone off and open his email by keying in his password while talking to “Shawn” on his landline.

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They stayed on the phone for two to three hours with “Shawn” being very chatty and sharing stories, but during this time, the scammer had already gained access to Mr Chiam’s account and was carrying out multiple transactions.

“He engaged me in this communication, I didn’t know that actually he was taking time to do the scamming process, I didn’t know, I thought it was just a friendly conversation,” CNA quotes Mr Chiam as saying.

When Mr Chiam wanted to eat dinner, the scammer told him to keep his computer on. But he also turned his mobile phone on at that time and found multiple notifications from the bank saying that a lot of money had been transferred out of his account.

Despite his fear and trauma, he called his bank. He also told his son-in-law what was going on, who promptly told him to unplug his computer.

On the same day, he filed a police report, and his accounts were frozen the following day. The amount of S$49,000 was recovered from Anil’s account, but the other $15,000 had gone missing. Mr Chiam and Anil are unknown to each other and have never met.

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Anil denied that he had committed a crime, but Deputy Public Prosecutor Gan Ee Kiat said that Anil had been dishonest because he used money for his own purposes, even though he had no reason to believe the money was his. “When confronted in the course of investigations with the transfers, the accused gave an incredible explanation – he thought they were gifts from an unnamed well-wisher,” CNA quotes Mr Gan as saying.

The prosecution told the court that Anil should have told the bank or the police about the money that appeared in his account, or at the very least, not transferred it to his other accounts. If Anil is found guilty of dishonest misappropriation, he could go to jail for up to two years, be made to pay a fine, or both.


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