SINGAPORE - Police from both sides of the Causeway have crippled a scam syndicate in Johor which had allegedly been targeting Singaporeans with fake friend calls.
Three Malaysian men, aged between 18 and 27, were extradited from Johor to Singapore on Tuesday, after a raid on a Johor apartment complex on March 20 led to their arrests.
In the fake friend call scam, fraudsters would contact victims and pretend to be their friends before asking for financial help. The syndicate, which started operating early in 2023, is believed to be involved in over 40 police reports made in Singapore, with victims losing more than $250,000 in total.
The Singapore Police Force and Royal Malaysia Police shared information after receiving the reports. The raid was jointly conducted by Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department and the Johor Commercial Crime Investigation Department.
The three men, who are expected to be charged with conspiracy to cheat on Thursday, face a jail term of up to three years and a fine.
In 2022, the fake friend call scam cost victims here at least $8.8 million, according to police statistics. So far in 2023, more than 1,300 people have lost at least $4.33 million to such scams, the police said.
Commercial Affairs Department director David Chew said on Wednesday that such scams are a serious concern. There were no reported cases in 2020, but the number of cases jumped to 686 in 2021, and to 2,106 in 2022.
“The Singapore Police Force has been working closely with the Royal Malaysia Police to detect and arrest these transnational syndicates who prey on our citizens,” he said. “We will continue to take tough action against individuals who perpetuate scams, even if they are based overseas.”
The police advise the public to download the ScamShield app, and to set security features including enabling two-factor authentication for their bank, social media and Singpass accounts. Limits on Internet banking transactions such as those via PayNow should also be set.
Members of the public should check for signs of a scam through official sources, such as visiting www.scamalert.sg or calling the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688.
“Verify whether the request is legitimate by checking with your family and friends through alternative means such as physical meet-ups, video calls or e-mails, other than using the new contact details on your phone,” the police added.