85 people under probe for scams involving $716,000

Most believed to be money mules, others posed as online sellers: Police

The police are investigating 85 people involved in 112 scam cases, where the victims lost more than $716,000.

This comes after a three-day operation conducted between Monday and Wednesday.

The suspects - 56 men and 29 women - are assisting with investigations for suspected involvement in cheating or money laundering. They are aged between 19 and 71.

Most of the suspects are believed to have acted as money mules who received and transferred illegal funds on behalf of criminal syndicates, said the police yesterday.

Other suspects are believed to have posed as online sellers and did not deliver the products to buyers after receiving payment.

The police added that tickets to attractions, mobile phones and hotel room bookings were some of the common items that scammers use to entice their victims.

Victims of these scams come across advertisements on online shopping platforms and make payment transfers for items.

Some never received the items they paid for. Others who bought tickets to attractions or hotel room bookings received invalid tickets or booking confirmations.

Police said scammers entice buyers to contact them directly through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp or WeChat by offering a better or faster deal if bank transfer payments are made directly to them. Some scammers may also use a local bank account or provide a copy of an identity card or driver's licence to convince buyers that they are genuine sellers.

"If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Purchase only from authorised sellers or reputable sources, especially for high-value items," the police advised.

The public should opt for buyer protection by using in-built payment options that release payment to the seller only upon delivery.

Those found guilty of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Those who are convicted of money laundering can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.

"To avoid being an accomplice to crimes, members of the public should always reject requests by others to use your bank account or mobile lines as you will be held accountable if these accounts are linked to illegal transactions," said the police.

For scam-related advice, the public can call the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688, or visit www.scamalert.sg

Those who wish to provide information on scams may call the police on 1800-255-0000, or visit www.police.gov.sg/iwitness

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline '85 people under probe for scams involving $716,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe