18 arrested after man loses $90k through government officials impersonation scam

The police have arrested 18 people, aged between 17 and 41 for their suspected involvement in a government officials impersonation scam (GOIS) case.

Another 21 people, aged between 16 and 55, are being investigated for the same case.

This comes after an islandwide anti-scam enforcement operation conducted between Oct 21 and Nov 6.

The police said in a statement that they received a report on Oct 21 that a victim had fallen prey to a GOIS and lost more than $90,000.

The money was found to have been layered through a complex network of bank accounts.

The victim's losses were withdrawn from automated teller machines (ATMs) within the same day.

On Oct 20, the male victim had received a call from a female scammer claiming to be acting for DBS.

She alleged that someone had attempted to make three bank transactions to transfer funds from the victim's DBS bank account to a UOB bank account.

The woman claimed that she was calling to verify the transfers with the victim. When he confirmed that he had not authorised any such transfers, he was told by the scammer that the matter would be referred to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) under 'MAS regulations'.

The victim was then contacted separately by four other scammers, all claiming to be police officers.

They said that the victim was a suspect in a case of money-laundering where $80,000 was transferred to his bank account and the victim's credit card was found in the possession of a suspect whom the police had arrested.

One of the scammers sent him a fake police warrant card via WhatsApp and another claiming to be an investigation officer sent him two false letters bearing the SPF logo and told him to open an 'OCBC safety account' as part of the investigations.

The victim was then told to transfer a specific sum of money to this so-called safety account so that the investigator could track the movement of the money.

Believing that this safety account belonged to him, the victim complied and transferred more than $90,000 to this account.

After the victim lodged a police report, officers from the Commercial Affairs Department's Anti-Scam Command launched an investigation which led to the islandwide operation.

Twelve suspects were arrested for their suspected involvement in selling and renting their bank accounts by relinquishing their bank cards and iBanking credentials to criminal syndicates.

Five people have been charged so far.

They sold or helped to sell bank accounts to a criminal syndicate, and aided the syndicate to withdraw money from fraudulently obtained accounts.

They also assisted the syndicate to activate fraudulently obtained bank cards and registered the corresponding banking accounts.

At least five mobile phones, more than 90 SIM cards and about 80 bank cards were seized from them.

For abetting someone to secure unauthorised access to a bank’s computer system, first-time offenders may be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to two years or both.

The police urged the public to always reject requests for their personal bank accounts to be used to receive and transfer money for others.

"The police would like to remind members of the public that individuals will be held accountable if they are found to be linked to such crimes," they added.

They advised the public to add the ScamShield app and enable security features such as two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication for banks, and transaction limits for Internet banking services including PayNow. And do not allow anyone to access your Singpass.

The public should check for scam signs using the ScamShield WhatsApp bot, call the Anti-Scam Helpline on 1800-722-6688, or visit www.scamalert.sg, the police said.

Scammers may use names of police officers to gain victims' trust, they added.

 No police officer or government official would require you to transfer money to any designated bank accounts.

The police encourage the public to tell the authorities, family and friends about scams, as well as report the scammers’ number to messaging platforms to initiate in-app blocking and report any fraudulent transactions to the banks immediately.

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