$590,000 seized from two men who allegedly extorted money in impersonation scam

Police seized $590,000 in cash from the two men during a raid in Ubi Avenue 1 on June 4, 2018.
Police seized $590,000 in cash from the two men during a raid in Ubi Avenue 1 on June 4, 2018.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Two Malaysian men were arrested on Monday (June 4) in connection with a series of scams in which they allegedly impersonated Chinese police officials to extort money from members of the public.

Police seized $590,000 in cash from the two men during a raid in Ubi Avenue 1 on Monday. The amount was the largest seized for any scam case this year.

The men, aged 18 and 33, are believed to be part of an international syndicate.

Impersonation scams are becoming more frequent, police told a news conference on Tuesday.

The number of victims of such scams has risen dramatically from 30 between January and April 2017 to 80 in the same period this year.

In the latest case, the police received reports on June 1 and 2 that two women, aged 51 and 55, had received calls from unknown men who claimed to be Chinese police officials.

The callers told the women that they were involved in a transnational money laundering crime and instructed them to withdraw all their savings for investigations. The 51-year-old woman, who is unemployed, transferred $100,000 to a bank account and the other victim, a 55-year-old housewife, handed over $310,000 to an unknown man.

One of the two men nabbed on Monday is a 33-year-old resident of the Malaysian state of Kedah while the other is an 18-year-old Singapore permanent resident who studied in Malaysia previously.

Both will be charged in court on Wednesday with dishonestly receiving stolen property. If convicted, each could be jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.

Another 18-year-old suspect in the case was charged in court last Saturday.

Police, in the meantime, are conducting further investigations to determine the identities of other victims in the case.

Mr Chew Jing Wei, head of the Syndicate Fraud Branch (Commercial Affairs Department), has warned members of the public to be wary of such scams.

The police have advised that people should ignore unsolicited calls to transfer money through undocumented mediums such as the phone, and to refrain from giving out personal information as well as bank details either on websites or over the phone.