JOHOR, MALAYSIA — A joint operation between the police force in Singapore and Malaysia has resulted in the arrest of 12 individuals, aged between 16 and 27, for their involvement in a “fake friend call scam” syndicate that targeted Singaporeans.
The syndicate is believed to have conducted over 360 reported cases, resulting in more than S$1.3 million in total losses.
Since January of this year, over 490 victims have fallen prey to similar scams, losing at least S$1.7 million in total.
The scam is operated by having a person calling potential victims to pretend to be their friend and ask for financial assistance.
The police believe that the syndicate started its scam operations in December 2022 and was using Singapore prepaid SIM cards to make calls to unsuspecting victims in Singapore.
Johor police collaborated with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and conducted simultaneous raids at three apartment complexes in Johor, resulting in the arrests.
SPF is also investigating 12 men and two women, some of whom have been arrested, for their suspected involvement in aiding the syndicate.
These individuals are believed to have handed over their personal bank accounts or SingPass accounts.
Investigations against the arrested individuals are ongoing.
If found guilty of facilitating unauthorized access to computer material, they may be imprisoned for up to two years, fined, or both.
Those found guilty of unauthorized disclosure of access codes for wrongful gain or unlawful purposes can be jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.
Singapore police advise members of the public to be wary of usual financial requests, even if they appear to be from family and friends, and to verify requests through alternative means such as physical meet-ups, video calls, or email.
Victims lost at least S$8.8mil in 2022
According to the statistics of SPF, there had been no report of “fake friend call scams”, but 686 cases were reported in 2021.
This figure then surged by 207 per cent to 2,106 cases in 2022.
The police statistics show that the fake friend call scam was the fifth type of scam of concern in 2022, with victims losing at least S$8.8mil.
In 2021, this was the 10th most common type of scam, with victims losing S$4.5mil that year.