S$69.5 million and S$15.4 million lost in investment and fake gambling scams between 2019 to 2020: SPF

S$69.5 million and S$15.4 million lost in investment and fake gambling scams between 2019 to 2020: SPF

There has been a 126 per cent increase in investment scams between 2019 and 2020 as well as 18 times more fake gambling platform scam cases in the same period, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

In a news release on Sunday (31 Jan), the SPF stated that at least S$69.5 million was lost in 1,102 investment scam cases, while S$15.4 million was lost in 299 fake gambling platform cases.

Between 27 to 29 January, the police force’s Anti-Scam Centre and several banks intervened in over 200 cases of investment and gambling scams, they noted.

“During the three-day enforcement operation, officers from the Commercial Affairs Department, Criminal Investigation Department, the seven police land divisions and the banks conducted live intervention by analysing fund flow of scam victims,” said the SPF.

Over the course of the operation, officers then engaged the victims and advised them to stop further money transfer. Many of the victim were unaware that they had been scammed.

The police stated that 98 people are currently assisting in the investigations for their suspected involved in 356 fake gambling platform and investment scams. These suspects, aged 17 to 59, are also believed to have been involved in facilitating the opening of bank accounts and transferring of money for these various syndicates.

Describing how these scams are conducted, the police noted that the people involved will claim to be financial professionals as they “cultivate” victims on online dating platforms before introducing them to investment sites or apps.

The victims will then be asked to invest and transfer money to banks “predominantly in Hong Kong and China”. On top of that, they will also be asked to pay administrative fees, security fees, or taxes, which become profits for the scammers.

The police explained that in many cases, the victims do earn an initial profit from their investment which hooks them in and convinces them that the investment is “legitimate and lucrative”.

Once the victims deposit larger amounts, the scammer become unreachable.

“In fake gambling platform scams, victims often befriend scammers through online dating platforms before they are introduced to online betting applications or websites,” said the SPF in its statement.

In some cases, the scammers will convince their victims that these platforms have loopholes which allow them to make easy profits.

In order to place bets on these platforms, victims are required to open a betting account on the platform, and deposit some amount of money into a bank account in exchange for betting credits and cash out winnings.

Later, the victims are told that their betting accounts have been frozen and that the only way to cash out their winnings would be to deposit even more money. Once that money is transferred, these scammers disappear, and the websites and platforms become inaccessible.

Those found guilty of cheating and dishonestly inducing a delivery of property may be jailed for up to 10 years and fined. Those guilty of money laundering may be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to S$500,000.

In its statement, the SPF also emphasised that victims of these online gambling scams are liable for offences under the Remote Gambling Act for opening betting accounts and placing bets online.

If convicted, they may be fined up to S$5,000, jailed for up to six months or both.

The police advised the public to be wary when befriending people online, whether on social media or dating platforms. The police also said they people should “understand that investments with high returns come with high risks”, and “always check with a licensed financial advisor before making any investment”.

On top of that, the public is advised to check with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on the status of the investment entity – whether it has been blacklisted or if it is licensed under MAS or respective overseas authorities.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Victims may be lured with the promises of easy winnings. However, such platforms are often programmed and rigged by the scammers,” said the SPF.

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