35 arrested as police probe 1,200 cases of scams involving $31 million

Officers from the police's Commercial Affairs Department work with banks to identify and call victims of scams. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The police arrested 29 men and six women, aged 16 to 66, during a four-day operation targeting investment and job scams, as well as those who sell their Singpass accounts to fraudsters.

The suspects are among 255 individuals assisting with investigations, who are believed to be connected to about 1,200 cases involving more than $31 million, said the police on Sunday (March 27) in a statement.

During the islandwide operation - held in collaboration with local banks OCBC, DBS, Standard Chartered, HSBC and UOB from last Tuesday to Friday - police officers and the banks also successfully intervened in more than 150 cases of investment and job scams, after tracing victims from bank accounts that were flagged in scam reports.

The tracing was done by identifying those who had made transactions to scam-tainted accounts but had yet to contact the police or the banks to report that they had been scammed.

Members of the media were invited to observe the operation at the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) in Police Cantonment Complex last Thursday as officers rang scam victims to gather details for investigations.

In the investment scams, the scammers would claim to be financial professionals and cultivate victims via social media platforms, said the police after the operation.

"Once lured, the victims would be introduced to investment experts who claim to be sharing sure-win tips. Victims would be enticed by the promise of easy earnings and transfer their money to bank accounts," they added.

In many instances, the victims would initially earn a small profit from the investments, leading them to believe the scheme was legitimate. They might then be asked to pay various fees to encash their profits. After these are paid, the scammers would become uncontactable.

Victims in job scams were typically lured by online or social media advertisements about fast-paying jobs and told to order increasingly expensive items online, purportedly to boost their sales figures, said the police.

Initially, the victims would be reimbursed for their orders and receive attractive commissions. After they transferred large sums of money for their orders, they would be left empty-handed when the scammers cut off contact, the police said.

During the operation, officers contacted unsuspecting victims to warn them about the scams. Many were unaware they were being scammed, but some did not believe the officers and brushed them off. To follow up, officers stationed near the victims would visit their homes to engage them further.

Officers also raided the homes of those who allegedly sold their Singpass details to help fraudsters open bank accounts and access online services to launder money. The police did not disclose the number of such arrests.

Scammers also misused Singpass details to subscribe to new mobile lines to communicate with victims.

In an earlier case, two men, aged 19 and 25, were charged on March 21 for disclosing their Singpass login details to help scammers launder close to $1 million so they could earn a commission. If convicted, they can be jailed for up to three years and fined.

Scams have been on the rise here, with the police reporting more than $630 million lost to scams last year - almost 2.5 times the $268.4 million in 2020, the police reported.

The suspects are believed to be connected to about 1,200 cases involving more than $31 million. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

They urged the public to be wary when receiving unsolicited offers of investment or job offers online and to understand that investments with high returns often come with high risks.

"To avoid becoming involved in money laundering activities, members of the public should always reject requests to use their personal bank accounts to be used to receive and transfer money for others," the police added.

For more information, the public can visit this website or call the Anti-Scam Hotline on 1800-722-6688. Anyone with information on scams may call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or go to this website.

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