In a bid to combat cases involving scammers impersonating “Chinese officials” which re-emerged in the first quarter of this year, resulting in S$4.8mil in total being fraudulently obtained from victims, the Singapore Police Force has issued an advisory regarding the modus operandi of such scammers and ways to avoid falling prey to such scams.
“Between January and April 2019, 65 reports of China Officials impersonation scams were received with at least $4.8 million cheated,” said the police in an advisory issued yesterday (1 Jul) and updated today.
Such scams, according to the police, typically entailed scammers impersonating as staff members from courier companies, or officers from other government organisations informing victims of the following:
- That a mobile number registered under their name was involved in a crime;
- That a parcel under their name containing illegal goods was detained;
- That there was a pending case in court against them; and/or
- That they had committed a criminal offence and were thus required to assist in investigations.
Scammers in such cases would then instruct the call recipient victim to provide their sensitive personal details such as their real names and identification numbers, and banking details – including internet banking credentials and One-Time Passwords – for “investigation purposes”.
“In some cases, the call would be transferred to another person who would identify himself as a police officer from China,” said Police.
Victims in such cases might be shown a copy of a “warrant” for their arrest from the so-called “China Police” and were often threatened with imprisonment if they refused to cooperate.
Victims who gave in out of pressure would then discover that monies had been transferred from their bank account to unknown bank accounts, the police observed.
An alternative method used by the scammers is to instruct victims to “scan a QR code and transfer a sum of money using Bitcoin vending machines”, Police added.
“There were also some cases where the recipients victims were asked to withdraw money from their bank accounts to be handed over to a “Government Officer” for verification purposes.
“The scammers kept the recipients victims on the phone line to ensure that they did not have the opportunity to verify the authenticity of the call,” according to the police.
Following the string of ‘Chinese official’ scam cases as illustrated above, Police has advised the public to take the following precautions when receiving unsolicited calls from unknown numbers:
- Ignore the calls and caller’s instructions, as legitimate government agencies will not ask for personal details or transfer of money over the phone or through automated voice machines;
- Call a trusted friend, or talk to a relative, before proceeding with any other action to avoid making any error in judgement;
- Be aware that scammers may use caller ID spoofing technology to mask the actual phone number and display a different number. Calls that appear to be from a local number may not actually be made from Singapore. If you receive a suspicious call from a local number, hang up, wait a while, then call the number back to check the validity of the request;
- Do not provide any sensitive personal information such as real names, identification numbers, passport details, contact details, bank account or credit card details, as such information are useful to criminals such as scammers.
Police urged the public to report incidents of such scams by contacting their hotline at 1800-255-0000, or by submitting such cases here. Those who require immediate police assistance may dial ‘999’, while those seeking scam-related advice may call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or visit this website.