SINGAPORE - When the person on the automated voice machine told her he was from the High Court and said that she was a suspect in a money-laundering case, Ms Megan (not her real name) panicked.
She insisted she was innocent, and he eventually suggested she might have been a victim of identity theft. She then spoke to another person who identified himself as Inspector Lim from the Singapore Police Force, who said they would investigate further. Following the incident on Oct 22, Ms Megan, 59, received a flurry of phone calls from "police officers" over six days, asking her to provide personal particulars and give them access to her banking details to check whether there was any unusual activity.
They turned out to be a group of scammers who were foiled when they tried to set up an account with digital-asset trading firm QCP Capital, which suspected something was amiss and raised an alert with the police.
On Friday (Dec 17), Ms Megan met the media via a Zoom call organised by the police and gave details of the scam involving $500,000, hoping that others will learn from her experience and would not fall for such tricks.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to a lot of people. It can be just that moment in time when you are a bit vulnerable and something clicks, so you need to be constantly alert and don’t assume you cannot be scammed,” said the management executive, who has been working in the IT industry for the past 20 years.
QCP Capital played a critical role in foiling what is billed as a Government Officials Impersonation Scam.
The company noticed discrepancies while performing checks as part of its new customer onboarding process and within two hours of suspecting something was amiss, staff alerted the police to a possible case of cheating and officers from the Anti-Scam Centre of the Commercial Affairs Department responded to the case.
Ms Megan was duly alerted and froze her bank account immediately.
Mr Lim Jin Li, co-founder and director of QCP Capital, said the scammers submitted accurate personal details about Ms Megan, including her NRIC number and scans of her passport.
“But just because somebody submits accurate information (it) does not mean the application is genuine, so we do have numerous ways of detecting fraud – a combination of technology and manual review,” he added, unwilling to go into further detail because of the sensitive and confidential nature of their protocols.
In a statement on Friday, the police said that between January and September this year, there were at least 50 victims who were deceived by scammers impersonating High Court officials, with at least $6.8 million lost. The police reminded the public to be “vigilant and wary of persons who may impersonate government officials”.
“The police will not request victims to assist in their investigation by providing their bank account numbers, Internet banking username and password,” the police said in the statement.
“No government official would also identify themselves by sending a picture of their warrant cards, or official documents via social media app as these are confidential documents.”
In her particular case, Ms Megan, who is single, said the scammers sounded like Singaporeans, which helped to convince her the situation was real.
She added that the “officers” told her not to tell anyone about the ongoing case.
“I always pride myself in being very data-driven, methodical and not someone who is easily flustered. I got thrown off-guard and I let fear paralyse me,” she added.
Those who have information related to such crimes, or are in doubt, please call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it at the iWitness website. For more information on scams, members of the public can visit the Scam Alert website or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688.