SINGAPORE - When promised reimbursements and commissions were not paid, the victims smelt a rat and made police reports.
On Tuesday (Oct 26), the police said they and their Malaysian counterparts have smashed two transnational job scam syndicates which allegedly cheated more than 390 people here of $5 million.
Ten people in Malaysia and 14 in Singapore were arrested in a joint operation planned by the police in both countries.
Preliminary investigations showed that the five men and five women aged between 21 and 32 who were nabbed in Malaysia targeted Singaporeans and Malaysians, and laundered their criminal proceeds in Malaysia.
The 12 men and two women arrested in Singapore - aged between 17 and 44 - allegedly facilitated the syndicates' crimes by carrying out bank transfers or fund withdrawals, or relinquishing their bank accounts to the syndicates for monetary gains.
The Singapore police said on Tuesday that since May, they had received increased reports of scammers posting job advertisements on social media. These advertisements said the work involved helping to improve sales on online platforms by ordering goods or liking TikTok or YouTube videos.
Once these initial tasks were completed, the victims were told that their account could be upgraded to get higher commissions. They were instructed to pay for the goods by transferring funds to different bank accounts.
They were promised reimbursements of the full sum and a 5 per cent to 15 per cent commission.
While the scammers kept their word at first, they later promised commissions only after a certain number of tasks had been done, and delayed payments.
The victims realised they had fallen prey to a scam when they did not receive subsequent reimbursements and commissions.
In the police statement on Tuesday, Mr David Chew, director of the Commercial Affairs Department, thanked the Malaysian police "for their strong support and commitment in tackling transnational crime syndicates that target our citizens".
"We will also take firm action against the money mules in Singapore, who sell their bank accounts to these job syndicates or actively help them to launder their proceeds of crime."
The police said e-commerce platforms would never ask users to transfer money with the promise of a refund and a commission.
They also urged the public to verify the authenticity of the job offer with official websites, and not use their bank account to conduct transactions on behalf of others as they may be unwittingly assisting to launder money from criminal activities.
Under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, anyone found guilty of assisting another to retain benefits from criminal conduct can be jailed up to 10 years, fined up to $500,000, or both.
In September, the police warned that more people are falling for job scams, with victims losing at least $6.5 million in the first six months of this year. The biggest amount lost in a single case was $676,000.