SINGAPORE: Islandwide raids saw 35 people arrested as part of a four-day enforcement operation against scams, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Sunday (Mar 27).
The 35 people, comprising 29 men and six women aged between 16 and 66, were arrested by officers from the Commercial Affairs Department and the seven police land divisions, SPF said in a news release.
“A total of 255 individuals are currently assisting with investigations for their suspected involvement in more than 1,200 cases involving more than S$31 million,” the police added.
The enforcement operation, conducted between Mar 22 and Mar 25 by SPF’s Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) together with five banks – DBS, UOB, OCBC, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank – “successfully intervened” in more than 150 cases of investment and job scams, the police said.
In investment scams, the scammers would claim to be financial professionals and cultivate victims via social media platforms, the police said.
Once lured, the victims would be introduced to “investment experts” who claim to be sharing “sure-win tips”.
“Victims would be enticed by the promise of easy earnings and transfer their money to bank accounts,” said SPF.
“In many instances, victims would earn a small profit from the ‘investment’ at the initial stage, leading them to believe that the scheme was legitimate and lucrative.”
The victims may have then be asked to pay administrative fees, legal fees or taxes in order to encash their profits, the police said.
Once these sums were deposited into designated bank accounts, the scammers would then become uncontactable, they added.
As for the job scams, victims would typically respond to job advertisements for quick cash on social media platforms and chat applications, SPF noted.
“They would then be told to order items from online platforms, purportedly to boost sales figures, progressing from lower-cost items to more expensive items,” they added.
The victims would pay for the items by funds transfers to bank accounts and would initially be reimbursed the full amount together with an attractive commission.
“When the scheme progresses to a point where victims have transferred large sums of money for their orders, the scammers would become uncontactable, and victims would be left empty-handed,” said the police.
“During the enforcement operation, officers from the ASC, the seven police land divisions and the five banks conducted live interventions by analysing the fund flow of bank accounts, which were surfaced in scam reports,” said the SPF.
“They then worked together to engage unsuspecting victims who had been transferring monies to scam-tainted bank accounts.”
The victims were informed that that they could have fallen prey to scams and were advised to stop any further monetary transfers, with many “completely unaware” that they had been scammed prior to being contacted by the police.
Of the 255 assisting with investigations, some were alleged to have sold their Singpass details to scammers, giving these scammers unauthorised access to digital services under the individuals’ names, SPF noted.
“This allowed the scammers to carry out acts such as registering businesses and opening bank or crypto-exchange accounts, for the purpose of receiving illegal proceeds from scam victims,” they said, noting Singpass details were also misused to subscribe to new mobile lines to communicate with victims in some instances.
“Investigations are ongoing into various offences, including cheating, money laundering, facilitating unauthorised access to computer material and carrying on the business of a payment service without licence,” said the police.
The police urged members of the public to be wary when receiving unsolicited offers of investment or job opportunities via social media platforms or chat applications.
They added that people should always reject requests for their personal bank accounts to be used to receive and transfer money for others, so as to avoid becoming involved in money laundering activities.
The police also cautioned people against relinquishing their own Singpass accounts to others.
They noted that crime syndicates can use Singpass login details to access digital services ranging from registering businesses in the owner’s name to obtaining cash advances from banks and even accessing money in the owner’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) account.
Those who facilitate unauthorised access to computer material face up to two years in prison, or a fine, or both.
Those who disclose access codes without authorisation for any wrongful gain or unlawful purpose face up to three years in prison, or a fine, or both.
The offence of cheating carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine.
The offence of carrying on an unlicensed business of providing payment services is punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to S$125,000, or both.
Those found guilty of money laundering can be jailed up to 10 years and fined up to S$500,000.