Trained hypnotherapist not fooled by caller posing as ICA officer in latest scam

ICA said that it is aware of a new scam where people have received calls a phone number similar to ICA's hotline number. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - On Wednesday (March 16), Ms Amelia Kang, 46, received a call from a man claiming to be an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer.

He accused her of importing Covid-19 antiviral drug remdesivir without a licence.

While infectious disease specialists can administer it to Covid-19 patients, Ms Kang, a life coach, is not authorised to do so.

The caller claimed that her parcel had been detained by the Shanghai Customs while en route to Singapore and that the Chinese authorities had notified ICA.

He was also able to provide more details about the parcel, such as its destination address and the courier service through which it was sent.

ICA on Thursday told The Straits Times that it is aware of a new scam where people have received calls from +65 6391-6100, a phone number which is similar to ICA's hotline number.

Fortunately, Ms Kang was not fooled by the caller.

Helped by her training as a hypnotherapist, she realised he was using hypnotherapy techniques on her.

Ms Kang said: "He used a soothing voice, asking me many times whether I was sure I had not given my NRIC to someone else.

"In hypnosis, repeating certain phrases can induce you into a trance-like state and alter your perceptions of what has happened, making you more suggestible to what others tell you to do."

She added: "Had I said I wasn't sure, they may have asked me to give them my NRIC number."

Ms Kang narrowly avoided falling victim to a new scam involving the impersonation of ICA officers.

Scammers would call potential victims claiming that there are issues with their visas or that parcels they ordered have been detained due to an attempt to import illegal goods.

To sort out these issues, the scammers ask for the recipients' name and NRIC or work pass number.

ICA said it takes a serious view of such scam calls as it undermines public trust in the authority.

It added: "Ignore such calls and the caller's instructions. Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and may err in your judgment. Do not be pressured by the caller to act impulsively."

Ms Kang said the scammer had threatened to summon her to the ICA headquarters if she did not comply with his instructions, asking her to come down on the same day as the call.

This was to create a sense of urgency, she said.

As she did not want to engage with the caller further, Ms Kang told him she would report him to the police and she put down the phone.

Anyone with related information on such scams can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit it at this website.

More scam-related advice can be found via the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688 or at this website.

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