Police warn of parcel scam by fake overseas officials; more than $4 million lost since March

Over 50 police reports and more than $4 million has been lost to the phone scammers since March 2016.
Over 50 police reports and more than $4 million has been lost to the phone scammers since March 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has warned the public of scammers who impersonate overseas officials to trick their victims into sending money.

The victims would receive calls from the scammers, informing them that parcels containing illegal items had been shipped in their names.

Since March this year, over 50 police reports have been received, with victims being tricked into sending more than $4 million to the scammers.

"The scam is almost identical to the fraud cases experienced in Hong Kong and China since mid-2015," SPF said in a news release on Wednesday (June 8).

There has also been a shift in the modus operandi of the scam recently, with scammers posing as police officers or staff from local courier companies such as SingPost.

This local variation of the scam involves victims receiving calls with spoofed local numbers to make the ruse more believable.

Once the victims were informed that parcels were delivered to their local addresses, they were then asked to remit monies to bank accounts in China or make fund transfers through Internet banking to accounts in Malaysia.

Recent cases saw victims visiting a webpage where they were told to enter their personal details and bank information.

SPF has advised the public to take the following precautions when receiving unsolicited calls from unknown parties:

  • Ignore the calls. Scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask the actual phone number and display a different number. Calls that appear to be from a local number may not actually be made from Singapore. If you receive a suspicious call from a local number, hang up, wait five minutes, then call the number back to check the validity of the request;
  • Ignore instruction to remit or transfer money. No government agency will inform you to make a payment through a telephone call, especially to a third party's bank account;
  • Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on the website or to callers over the phone. Personal information and bank details such as Internet bank account username and password, OTP code from token, is useful to criminals;
  • Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment; and
  • If you have information related to such crime or if you are in doubt, call the Police hotline on 1800-255-0000, or dial 999 for urgent Police assistance.