China officials impersonation scams on the rise since October

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

SINGAPORE - The rise this year in China officials impersonation scams has spiked since the start of October, police warned in a statement on Thursday (Nov 12).

The amount of money victims lost 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 "police" from the Chinese government 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 their personal information, such as 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 that no government agency would request for banking credentials or to meet strangers to pass or receive money and documents.

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

To trick their victims, scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask their actual phone number and display a local one.

Since April 15, all incoming international calls have been 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 also 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.

They can call 999 if urgent police assistance is necessary.

To receive advice about scams, the public can contact the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688 or visit the website here.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.