Data Register Pte Ltd, which has duped 1,056 firms into paying a $490 "subscription fee" in November 2013, is still running its illicit operations this year, despite being slapped with 500 charges under the Companies Act and subsequently hefty fines in 2016.
Earlier in 2014, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) had also investigated Data Register over the alleged scam and seized monies from the company's bank account.
However, no fraud charges were brought against the company despite the investigation by CAD.
The scam letters were first sent in 2013 to approximately 140,000 recipients. They were signed by a so-called "Deputy Director Information Services" from a company called Company Register without a signature.
Nearly 22,000 recipients had logged onto the company's website according to instructions. However, they were told that they had subscribed to its services, and are obligated to pay a $490 fee as a result. Consequently, 1,056 businesses paid the data company $517,440 in total.
Between November 2013 and April 2016, Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) received an unprecedented 7,884 complaints and inquiries concerning the company; it incurred nearly $60,000 in costs for taking and making related calls to members of the public.
For its part, the ACRA said it wrote to Data Register in November 2013, demanding that the firm cease further plans to send "unsolicited business letters with vague and threatening contents", and to offer to remove the firms it had sent letters to from its database and not charge them the $490 fee.
However, ACRA received complaints about how some recipients of Data Register's opt-out e-mail the following month have found that they were unable to choose the "remove my account" option.
According to reports, it is said that ACRA incurred nearly $60,000 in costs for receiving and making calls related to the Data Register issue to members of the public.
On 3 June 2016, Data Register was fined $200,000 in total, or $400 for each of the 500 charges under the Companies Act that it had earlier pleaded guilty to.
The charges were based on Data Register's failure to state its name and registration number on its business letters. Each breach under s.144 Companies Act carries a maximum fine of $1,000.
Data Register, which created the false impression that it was a government entity through its misrepresentation of the Lion Head logo, which is often associated with the Singapore Government's official logo, also admitted to another 604 charges.
"These charges represent a mere fraction of the potential offences committed by the issuance of the letters," Acra chief executive Kenneth Yap told a district court. ACRA also advised businesses that "the statutory duty to file and provide business information... is owed only to Acra", in a bid to prevent more companies from falling prey to such scams in the future.
But even with a conviction, Data Register is not barred from soliciting more business or reviving its payment demands from subscribers.
It was alleged that up to July 2015, Data Register was still sending problematic "final invoice reminders" requesting that firms pay up the $490 to avoid a visit from a credit management company.
Earlier this year in March, the company re-emerged by sending the same letters to unsuspecting companies, asking for outstanding dues to be paid.
Below shows a letter received by a company in March this year.
Apparently, this continued till today, where a member of the public, Linda Heng posted a photograph of a letter she had received from DataRegister Pte Ltd just recently, which looks similar to the letter above.
She proceeded to ask Facebook users if they have "heard of this "DATAREGISTER for companies".
She added that "they [have] sent me a letter, billing me for 5 years of services [totalling SS2450.00] which I did not know [of], [have] used, or have any idea what this company is all about!"
Many commenters had promptly alerted her to the fact that DataRegister is a scam.
The next day, Ms Heng filed a police report.
She appeared to be taken aback by the police officer's response, as evident in her caption:
Policeman : Yes?
Me : I am here to make a report on a scam letter. Someone sent me a letter demanding payments.
Policeman nodding : Oh, from DataRegister?
Me : 😱 How you know?
Policeman : So many reports have been made already.
According to ACRA's record, one of two Data Register’s registered directors is a Hungarian citizen, while the Singaporean co-director is believed to be merely nominal, because all Singapore companies require at least one Singaporean citizen to be named as a director, seeing that the date of appointment is fairly recent, which fell on 31 July last year.
The company is also shown to be owned by a foreign entity, "International Company Register Ltd" which is based in Virgin Islands.
Users who had commented on the post were similarly baffled by the seemingly lackadaisical approach taken by the Police towards Ms Heng's report.
Johnny Kwok said:
So many people made police report. Yet on actions are taken against them. And yet still allowing them to operate? What is this? This company had been doing these for few years already.
Gerry Khoo postulated:
Could be foreign scam. If local scam, they would jump in ASAP to arrest them!😜😂
Terence Wu clarified:
Police [generally] do criminal [investigations].
[The] Commercial Affairs Department [under the police specifically] does [investigations] on these [cases, as they are] related to commercial crime, a.k.a. white collar crimes.