Callers posing as immigration officers cheat at least 63

Scammers posing as Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) officers have cheated more than 60 people, with some losing more than $1,500 each.

Police said yesterday the scammers phoned their victims using a number that appeared to be the ICA hotline, 6391-6100, and would inform them of an error in their personal particulars.

They were then told to transfer cash as they were liable for a fine for giving incorrect information - or face police action and deportation.

So far, 63 cases have been reported this year. Police said 26 of the victims had been cheated of more than $40,000.

The latest victim, who fell prey to the scam yesterday, is a private university student who wanted to be known only as Ms Tiwari. The 25-year-old Indian national said the caller, who identified himself as an officer with ICA's "updation (sic)" department, could rattle off her identity card number, her address in Mumbai and date of birth.

He claimed she had given a wrong date of birth on her arrival card. He then gave her a fictitious case number and said she had to pay a fine of $450 or "get in trouble".

"He told me not to disconnect the call as it was being recorded and that if I cut the line, police would come to my house and deport me back to India," said Ms Tiwari.

The scammer then directed her from her Choa Chu Kang home to the nearest Western Union outlet, claiming it was the only method she could use to pay the fine.

"He made me believe there was no other option," she said, adding that she was on the phone with the scammer for over two hours. "He spoke with a very confident voice and talked the same way an officer would."

The ICA verified that such calls were not authentic and said it does not call up members of the public to pay fines.

"Members of the public are reminded to be wary of such phone calls," said the police in a media statement last night. "Ignore such calls and do not transfer any money via remittance agencies, banks or any other means to the caller."