Teen scammed into filming herself with mouth taped, transferring $170,000 to fraudsters

The man was arrested for his suspected involvement in a case of a China officials impersonation scam. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

SINGAPORE - A couple in China received a video showing their teenage daughter with her hands and legs bound and mouth taped shut, with a ransom demand in Mandarin from an unknown person.

Singapore police found the girl, 19, safe in a Woodlands flat rented by a 22-year-old man.

He was arrested for his suspected involvement in a case of a China officials impersonation scam.

On Tuesday, the police said it had received a report on Oct 14 the teen had been kidnapped.

Officers from Tanglin Police Division, the Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department and the Commercial Affairs Department tracked down the victim that same day.

Investigations revealed she had received an unsolicited call from a person claiming to be a Ministry of Health officer who said she had a parcel detained at customs which contained illegal Covid-19 medicine.

She was transferred to another scammer masquerading as the “China Police” for investigations.

She was told a bank card in her name was involved in money laundering activities in China and that the banking facilities belonging to her and her family would be frozen.

After she was told she could transfer money for her case to be expedited, she allegedly transferred $170,000 as a ‘security deposit’ to a bank account controlled by the scammer.

She was also told to take a video of herself with her hands and legs bound to pretend she had been kidnapped to lure and arrest the syndicate members.

The girl was told to isolate herself and cease communication with others to facilitate their investigations.

Follow-up investigations revealed the 22-year-old man had allegedly acted on the scammer’s instructions to rent the room for the victim, and had handed over a SIM card for her to use for communication with the scammer.

Police investigations are ongoing.

From January to September 2022, there were a total of 548 China official impersonation scam cases reported, with losses totalling at least $67.9 million, said the police.

In a case reported last month, a scam victim was told to fake a hostage situation by smearing ketchup on himself to scare his mother. The scammers had demanded a 1 million yuan (S$200,000) ransom in exchange for his safe return.

On Tuesday, the police reminded the public that the China Police, Interpol and other overseas law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction to conduct operations in Singapore, arrest anyone, or ask them to help with any form of investigations without the approval of the Singapore Government.

The police also advised the public to take precautions when receiving unsolicited calls, especially from unknown parties and those with the “+” prefix which originate overseas.

They should also refrain from giving personal information and bank details via websites or to callers over the phone.

The police also advised foreigners receiving calls from those claiming to be from police in their home country to call their embassy or High Commission to verify the claims of the caller.

The Straits Times had reported on Sunday that more foreigners had fallen victim to scams in Singapore, with the amount of money lost more than doubling from $40.4 million in 2020 to $88 million in 2021, police figures revealed.

The number of cases involving foreign victims also increased from 3,431 in 2020 to 5,210 in 2021.

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