10 arrested during anti-scam operation targeting those fraudulently registering SIM cards

Police officers conducting investigations during an anti-scam raid at a handphone shop in City Plaza on Jan 16, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The police said the SIM cards are registered using the particulars of unsuspecting customers or foreigners who have not entered or left Singapore. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE - Ten people, comprising nine men and a woman, were arrested during an anti-scam operation on Sunday (Jan 16) for their suspected involvement in fraudulently registering prepaid SIM cards.

In a statement, the police said their nine-hour operation involved officers from the Commercial Affairs Department and targeted 17 mobile phone shops in Orchard, Geylang, Serangoon, Pasir Ris, Jurong West, Yishun, Woodlands, Boon Lay, Desker Road, Syed Alwi Road and Rochor Canal Road.

The 10 suspects are aged 31 to 56, while another 15 men and nine women, aged 24 to 68, are assisting with investigations.

The operation comes amid a recent spate of scams, with the police revealing on Thursday that at least 1,200 cases of phishing scams have been reported since December. In that month, at least 469 people were duped of $8.5 million in total by a text message purportedly from OCBC Bank.

Assistant Superintendent Simon Lam, a senior investigation officer in the police's Anti-Scam Centre, said that by fraudulently registering prepaid SIM cards and selling them to customers who wish to remain anonymous, the mobile phone retailers have indirectly facilitated scam syndicates that exploit the anonymity of such SIM cards to avoid detection.

The police said the SIM cards are registered using the particulars of unsuspecting customers or foreigners who have not entered or have left Singapore.

They added that criminals use such SIM cards as an anonymous channel of communication for unlicensed moneylending, scams, vice and other illicit activities.

Scam syndicates have been found to use such SIM cards to contact victims and communicate among themselves.

During Sunday's operation, an assortment of paraphernalia such as a printer, laptops, mobile phones, invoices, photocopied passports, SIM cards and relevant documents were seized.

At City Plaza in Geylang Road, police officers raided several mobile phone shops simultaneously in teams of three. During the raid, they sifted through stacks of SIM cards, flipped through logbooks and interviewed shopkeepers.

Shopkeepers were also made to unlock cabinets for the officers to search them, and items such as SIM cards and logbooks were taken away in bags from some shops for further investigation.

An officer was seen inspecting the contents of a laptop belonging to a shop as he spoke to one of its shopkeepers.

Several shops were ordered to shut temporarily as their shopkeepers were taken away to assist with investigations.

Investigations have revealed that mobile phone retailers involved in the fraudulent registrations had abused the computer systems holding registration information for prepaid SIM cards. Further investigations are ongoing.

Those convicted of unauthorised modification of computer material under the Computer Misuse Act 1993 can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to three years, or both.

Said ASP Lam: "The police will spare no effort to clamp down on such errant handphone shop dealers and ensure that those involved in such illegal activities will be dealt with in accordance with the law."

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