Impersonation scams: 45 reports in Q1 this year

On April 10 last year, a student from China living in Singapore received a phone call from a woman claiming to be from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) who said she was under suspicion of money laundering.

Deceived into believing her, the student in her 20s, who did not want her identity revealed, cooperated with the "investigation".

"She transferred me to a number that had '110', which is China's police number," she told The Straits Times yesterday.

The male "officer" on the line told her to report her whereabouts to him, to "show she was not running away" from her alleged deeds.

The next day, she was instructed to key her bank details into what he said was an SPF website.

She was also told to keep the case confidential in order for the police to catch the real culprit.

But the moment she provided her one-time password (OTP) and access to her bank account, she received a message that $22,500, her entire savings earned from working here, had been transferred out.

Her suspicions were further raised when she was told not to log in to her bank account.

She was one of four people who fell prey to a scam where fraudsters impersonated Chinese officials.

Last Wednesday, Chien Jui Hung and Lin Yu Fan, who acted as mules in the scam for the money transfers, were sentenced to 28 months and 22 months in jail, respectively, for money laundering.

Scams where fraudsters impersonate Chinese officials increased by 60.6 per cent to 302 cases last year, from 188 cases in 2017. In the first three months of this year, there were 45 reports of such scams.

The police advise the public to be wary of calls from people claiming to be officials, especially of a foreign country. People should never give their bank details, credit card numbers, OTP codes from tokens or passport numbers to strangers over the phone, said the police.

Those seeking advice can call the Anti-Scam Helpline on 1800-722-6688 to check if a call they have received is a suspected scam.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline Impersonation scams: 45 reports in Q1 this year. Subscribe