158 people duped by bogus China govt officials this year

Victims lost more than $12m to phone scammers pretending to be security officials

At least 158 people have been duped by bogus Chinese government officials between January and November this year.

In a statement yesterday, the police said that these victims have been cheated out of more than $12 million so far by these scammers, who pretend to be officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security or Chinese Interpol.

Citing a recent case, the police said that a 19-year-old student, a Chinese national, was made to believe he was being investigated by the Chinese Interpol.

To prove his innocence, the scammers instructed him to cut off all communication with his family members and friends.

He was deceived into acting as a secret operative for the "Chinese authorities" to collect monies from other victims, as well as faking his own kidnapping in Singapore to help the "Chinese authorities" cripple an international syndicate.

In fact, he was actually helping the scammers carry out other deceptions targeting Singapore residents.

In another recent case, a female student was duped by scammers who said her credit card had been used for money laundering.

  • $500k

    Upper limit of fine if convicted of knowingly assisting in dealing with the monies derived from criminal conduct, or a jail term of up to 10 years.

The 17-year-old Chinese national had received a call from someone claiming to be an official from the International Financial Department unit.

She was instructed to send nude photographs of herself to verify the features on her body. This was to serve as "proof" that she was not connected to the case and did not have a sexual relationship with another male money launderer.

She was later asked to transfer money to a bank account in China.

But when she failed to do so, the scammers threatened to put her photos up on Facebook. She made a police report when she realised it could be a scam.

The police, in the statement, revealed details of the modus operandi of such scams. The steps were:

1 Victims received unsolicited messages or calls from strangers. These calls usually employed caller-ID spoofing technology and may look like they were from official government hotline numbers such as 110 or 999.

2 Victims were then told that they had committed criminal offences and were required to assist in criminal investigations:

  • Victims were instructed to provide their Internet banking details, one-time password for investigation purposes, or directed to a fake website of the Singapore Police Force or the China Police to key in their banking details. Victims may also be shown fake "warrants of arrest" bearing their photographs on these fake websites.
  • Victims were asked to withdraw their money and pass it to strangers or remit the money to bank accounts in China.
  • Victims were instructed to send nude photos of themselves to prove that they did not have unique features on their bodies that resemble the criminals who the scammers claimed they were looking for.

3 Victims were then threatened with arrest by the "Chinese authorities" or exposure of the photos if they did not do as told.

The police said that they take "a serious view against any person who may be involved in scams, whether knowingly or unwittingly".

Anyone convicted of knowingly assisting in dealing with the monies derived from criminal conduct may face a fine of up to $500,000 or a jail term of up to 10 years.

Those who have any information related to such crimes are advised to call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2017, with the headline '158 people duped by bogus China govt officials this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe