Foreign students falling prey to kidnapping scams: Police

Three police reports have been made over the past two days over kidnapping scams involving foreign students, the police said yesterday.

In one case, a female student studying in Singapore was cheated of $22,010 and $4,800 on separate occasions, with the money used to purchase cryptocurrencies for the scammers.

"The victims, who are typically Chinese national students, received calls from strangers claiming they are government officials," said the police.

The calls usually used caller ID spoofing technology, with phone numbers resembling government hot line numbers such as 110 or 999. The victims were then told they had committed criminal offences and were required to assist in investigations to prove the money they owned was legitimate.

This included either withdrawing their money and handing it to strangers, or transferring the money via a cryptocurrency cash deposit machine or to another bank account.

They were then asked to update their whereabouts to scammers over the next few days, change their SIM cards and log out from their social media applications.

The calls usually used caller ID spoofing technology, with phone numbers resembling government hot line numbers such as 110 or 999.

Victims were also asked to give personal information on their families in China to the scammers, who would then contact the victims' parents to inform them that their children had been kidnapped, and demand the payment of ransoms.

The female student cheated of $26,810 was told not to contact anyone in the next few days, while the scammers contacted her parents to claim that their daughter had been kidnapped by them in Singapore, said the police.

"Even though there was no monetary loss suffered by the victim's parents, the scammers managed to instil fear and helplessness in them," said the police.

The police added that they take a "serious view" against any person involved in such scams, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Those guilty of knowingly assisting in dealing with money obtained from criminal conduct will be liable to a fine of up to $500,000 or up to 10 years' jail, or both.

The public are also advised to take precautions when they receive unsolicited calls.

Those who have any information related to such a crime may call 1800-255-0000 or dial 999 for urgent assistance. They may also call 1800-722-6688 for scam-related advice or visit www.scamalert.sg.

Charmaine Ng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline 'Foreign students falling prey to kidnapping scams: Police'. Print Edition | Subscribe