Impersonation scam reports almost double in a month

The scammers even go to the extent of cloning the telephone numbers of government agencies in a bid to reduce suspicion.
The scammers even go to the extent of cloning the telephone numbers of government agencies in a bid to reduce suspicion.PHOTO: ST FILE

Cases typically involve con men pretending to be govt officers; some clone phone numbers of govt agencies

Impersonation scams, in which scammers typically pretend to be government officers to extort money from their victims, have almost doubled this month.

There have been 12 cases reported so far this month, up from a monthly average of about seven cases from January to last month, according to figures released by the police to The Straits Times yesterday.

The scammers even go to the extent of cloning the telephone numbers of government agencies in a bid to reduce suspicion.

The targeted victims are mostly foreign nationals aged 20 to 39. The cases typically involve con men pretending to be government officers from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

From January to June last year, 61 such cases were reported, with victims losing a total of $179,700.

  • 12

  • Number of impersonation scam cases reported this month.

  • 61

  • Number of cases reported from January to June last year.

Victims are told that there are issues related to their stay in Singapore or their application for an Employment or S Pass that need to be rectified immediately.

This process would require a transfer of funds.

Doctoral student Bala was one such victim.

The 25-year-old Indian national from Tamil Nadu, who did not want to give his full name, was in the midst of his project work at Nanyang Technological University when he received a call from a man claiming to be a government officer.

The man said he was from MOM before the call was suddenly cut off.

Although the first-year student was suspicious, his worries were laid to rest after he returned the call and heard an automatic MOM voice message.

Another "officer" called back immediately and told Mr Bala that he had written the wrong date of birth on his departure card when leaving India for Singapore.

"The officer said I had provided the wrong information and it was a crime that might have me deported, so I panicked," Mr Bala said yesterday.

The bogus officer offered him a way out - one that involved transferring close to $1,000 into a specified bank account.

As he had an impending project deadline to meet, Mr Bala took up the offer and rushed to Jurong Point to make the transfer that April afternoon.

For over three hours, he stayed on the phone with the "officer", who directed him to make four more money transfers.

In total, he wired $4,800 to various bank accounts.

"The officer kept reminding me not to cut or hold the call. It took me some time before I realised that this was suspicious," said Mr Bala, who made a police report in the evening of the same day.

"I couldn't believe I was a victim of a scam. You just never expect this to happen to you," he said, adding that he could not bear to tell his family back home about the incident.

Though Mr Bala may not be able to get the money back, he has come to terms with the incident and counts it as a lesson learnt.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Impersonation scam reports almost double in a month'. Print Edition | Subscribe