The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has alerted members of the public to a new variant of government officials impersonation scam targeting English-speaking victims.
Victims lost more than S$3.9 million
In this new variant, scammers posed as Singapore High Court or Interpol Singapore personnel to cheat victims into making monetary transfers for the purported settlement of alleged money laundering offences, which were never committed by them.
The police said in a press release that they received more than 40 reports between January and April 2021 from victims who had lost more than S$3.9 million to the scammers.
The victims had received unsolicited phone calls purportedly from callers who claimed to be from Singapore High Court or Interpol Singapore.
They were informed that they are being investigated for money-laundering activities.
Shown fake police pass and letters
The victims were then purportedly referred to an Interpol officer by the name of "Eric Wong Teng Hui" for case management and were instructed to download the LINE messenger application for further communication.
Through WhatsApp or LINE, the victims would then be shown a fake Interpol International Police Pass, and a letter from SPF with their names and addresses signed off by an "Inspector Yong Tian Ming" to create a false impression that they were genuinely under police investigation.
The victims would subsequently be instructed to provide their identification documents for verification and surrender their monies for investigations by making monetary transfers to various bank accounts controlled by the scammers.
They were promised that the money transferred to these bank accounts would be returned to them upon completion of investigations.
In some cases, the victims were also asked to hand over control of their bank accounts and SingPass accounts as part of the purported investigations.
How to prevent yourself from getting scammed
If you receive unsolicited calls to surrender money or banking credentials to others, the police advised to follow these precautions in order to avoid criminal investigations:
- Ignore such calls and the caller's instructions. No local government agency will demand payment through an undocumented medium like a telephone call or other social messaging platforms, demand that you surrender cash to unnamed persons, or ask you for personal banking information such as your internet banking passwords.
- For foreign residents receiving calls from persons claiming to be police officers or government officials from your home country, please call your Embassy/High Commission to verify the claims of the caller.
- Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on a website or to callers over the phone. Personal information and bank details such as internet bank account usernames and passwords, OTP codes from tokens, are useful to criminals. Do not make any funds transfer at the behest of such callers.
- Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. Do not be pressured by the caller to act impulsively.
- If in doubt, call '999' or approach a police officer at the Neighbourhood Police Centre near you.
Top images courtesy of SPF.