Elderly businessman cheated of $120,000 in gold ingot scam

Items including old notes and fake gold ingots showcased during a media interview with a victim of a gold ingot scam, held at the Police Headquarters at New Phoenix Park. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - An 83-year-old businessman lost $120,000 last week after he fell prey to a gold ingot scam that was last reported in 2014.

The businessman, who requested to remain anonymous but agreed to be interviewed by the media to warn others of the scam, said he received a phone call last Friday (Dec 13) from a man who claimed to have the same rare Chinese surname as he did.

The man said a friend had bought items from the victim's shop before, and asked if there were any clan associations they could visit and have a meal together.

Not suspecting anything, the businessman met the man and the woman he claimed to be his wife.

Believed to be Chinese nationals in their 40s, the couple then told victim that they had found an urn containing a will and gold ingots weighing 20kg, while excavating a construction site in Holland Village.

"I asked them if the gold ingots were real or fake, and they took out a small piece that they claimed had been cut out from one of the ingots to show me," said the victim.

The trio then went to a pawnshop to verify the authenticity of the small piece of gold. It was confirmed as genuine and worth about $230, the victim recalled.

"The man then told me that he wanted to sell me the gold ingots and other items they had found in the urn, as he and his wife were leaving Singapore and it would be troublesome to clear customs with the gold ingots," the duped businessman said.

The victim bought the items, including 159 bogus gold ingots, six fake gold Buddha statues and old Chinese currency, from the couple, paying them $120,000 in cash.

Feeling something amiss the next day, the victim decided to bring some of the gold ingots to the same pawnshop to verify if they were authentic.

When told that the pawnshop would not be able to buy the ingots as they were fake, the businessman realised that he had become the victim of a scam and called his daughter for help. By then, the couple could not be contacted.

"At the time, I didn't suspect anything and was muddle-headed... I hope that by sharing my experience, other elderly people like myself will not fall prey to such scammers," the victim said.

Police investigations are ongoing.

In 2014, three men were charged for attempting to sell a businessman pieces of bogus gold ingots and fake gold Buddha figures using a similar modus operandi.

The trio were later jailed for 20 months each in 2015 for attempting to cheat Mr Roland Tay Hai Choon, the director of Direct Funeral Services.

Officer-in-charge of the Commercial Crime Squad, Assistant Superintendent Stanley Qiu, advised members of the public to always buy from established and authorised or reputable retailers, and to be wary of offers that sound too good to be true.

"Enlist a professional's assistance to verify the authenticity and value of any high value items you intend to purchase before making payment," ASP Qiu added.

Members of the public who wish to provide information related to such crimes may call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000, or post it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness

They can also seek scam-related advice by calling the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg

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