Scammers dupe undergrad into acting like he was kidnapped

The scammers earned his trust after speaking to him for about a month. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE – They claimed to be officials from China warning him of a scheme to kidnap him and his family members.

To thwart the fictitious kidnappers, the scammers told the 21-year-old Chinese national to go to a residential unit and take a picture and video of himself tied up with make-up on to make it seem as though he had been bruised.

The picture and video were sent to his parents in China on April 26 to try to get a ransom of 1 million yuan (S$208,000).

But a relative here filed a missing person report for Sam (not his real name), and he was found safe and well by the police at Jewel Changi Airport before the money was transferred.

Speaking to the media on Thursday (May 5), Sam, a university student here, said: "(They) told me they had arrested some people and found out from them that there was a scheme to kidnap me or my family members.

"At the time, I just wanted to keep my family safe. The 'officials' wanted me to pretend I had been kidnapped to help them catch the criminals. We know now that it was all fake."

He added that when he reached the location, he thought of checking on his parents in China, but the scammers convinced him otherwise.

"They said things like it is a critical time in the investigation and wanted me to cooperate with their plans first," said Sam, who added that the scammers earned his trust after speaking to him for about a month.

Last Friday, the police said a 25-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy were being investigated in relation to the ruse. They are said to have been victims as well.

The 25-year-old purportedly acted on the scammers' instructions to hand over a mobile phone with a SIM card to Sam for him to communicate with the scammers.

The boy was said to have bought and handed over a mobile phone with a SIM card, dried food, cosmetics, rope, bandage tape and other items to the victim under the scammers' instructions.

Sam said he has since spoken to his parents and apologised to them.

"Although I was the one who had been cheated, my parents were the most worried and I feel very sorry towards them," he added.

This is not the first time scammers have conducted such fake kidnappings while posing as officials from China.

In November last year, an 18-year-old was duped into transferring more than $350,000 to scammers as "bail" before recording a video of himself with his hands placed behind his back. The scammers used the video to threaten the victim's parents by claiming he had been kidnapped.

In January, a 21-year-old and his family transferred more than $560,000 to scammers impersonating officials from China after they threatened him. The man had followed instructions to isolate himself in a hotel room and recorded videos of himself with his hands placed behind his back to convince his family in China that he was in trouble.

Last Friday, the police reiterated that the Chinese police, Interpol and other overseas law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction to conduct operations in Singapore without the approval of the Singapore Government.

The police advised the public to ignore calls from numbers with the "+" prefix that originate from overseas.

Foreigners receiving calls from people claiming to be from the police in their home countries can verify with their embassy or high commission.

The public is also advised not to make fund transfers if the caller is of dubious identity. They should also talk to a trusted friend or a relative before acting.

Those with information related to such crimes can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000, or dial 999 for urgent police assistance.

The public can call the Anti-Scam Hotline on 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg for more information.

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