Police warn of rise in scams linked to fake China officials

Between January and June this year, over $11 million was lost and at least 224 reports were made.
Between January and June this year, over $11 million was lost and at least 224 reports were made.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The rising number of "impersonation of China officials" scams this year has spiked since the start of October, police said in a statement yesterday.

The amount of money lost by victims was not stated but figures from the first half of this year showed a more than 85 per cent jump in reports, compared with the same period in 2019.

Between January and June this year, over $11 million was lost and at least 224 reports were made. Victims lost more than $7.1 million over the same period last year.

In a recent variant of the crime, victims were duped by scammers posing as Chinese government "police" into collecting money from other individuals who turned out to also be victims of the deception.

To prove they were credible, fraudsters would e-mail fake court documents to the victims.

Scammers using the same ruse have also impersonated staff from courier companies, telecommunication service providers or officers from government organisations.

They trick victims by claiming that a mobile number or bank account registered in their name is linked to a crime. They might also say that there are pending court cases against the victims or may ask them to assist in investigations for a criminal offence.

Believing that their identities have been stolen, victims would provide personal details, like Internet banking credentials, to be absolved of the purported offence.

They would then be told to transfer money and, in some cases, scammers would withdraw funds from the victims' bank accounts.

The police said no government agency will ask for banking credentials or to meet strangers to pass or receive money and documents.

They advise the public to call a trusted friend or relative before taking action, as they may be overwhelmed by emotion and have poor judgment.

To trick victims, scammers may mask their actual phone number and display a local one. Since April 15, all incoming international calls are prefixed with a plus sign.

The public should remain vigilant when receiving any unexpected international calls and reject those which spoof local numbers, said the police.

They should avoid disclosing any personal information such as their name and passport details.

Those with information related to such scams should call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit it online. To receive advice about scams, the public can contact the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688 or go to this website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2020, with the headline 'Police warn of rise in scams linked to fake China officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe