'Kidnap victim' found in Geylang after parents in China received ransom video, 1 man arrested

It starts with a phone call supposedly from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The police call it the China Officials Impersonation Scam.

What happened was the victim received an unsolicited call from a scammer who claimed to be an officer from MOH in Singapore about a month ago, said police.

The victim’s phone call was later redirected to a scammer purportedly claiming to be a police officer from China.

The scammer alleged that the victim’s particulars were used to open a bank account involved in money laundering activities in China and later deceived the victim into transferring more than $200,000 as “bail money” to bank accounts provided by the scammer.

Acting on the scammer’s instructions, the victim recorded a video of himself to assist in the purported investigations.

Without the victim’s knowledge, the scammer sent the video to the victim’s parents in China and demanded a ransom to be paid for his release.

The police received a report on Aug 23 that a 24-year-old man had allegedly been kidnapped.

Officers from the Clementi Police Division, Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department and Commercial Affairs Department conducted extensive searches and investigations to locate the victim who was eventually found to be safe and sound in the vicinity of Geylang Road within five hours of police report.

Preliminary investigations revealed that a 58-year-old man had acted on the scammer’s instructions to book hotel rooms for the victim and hand a mobile phone with a SIM card to the victim for the victim’s communication with the scammer.

The man was arrested.

Police investigations are ongoing.

Those found guilty for the offence of cheating face an imprisonment term of up to 10 years and a fine. Those found guilty for the offence of money laundering face a penalty of an imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.

The police said they take a serious view against any person who may be involved in scams, whether knowingly or unwittingly, and they would be dealt with severely in accordance with the law.

The police added that the China police, Interpol and other overseas law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction to conduct operations in Singapore, arrest anyone or ask you to help with any form of investigations without the approval of the Singapore Government.

You are advised to take the following precautions when you receive unsolicited calls, especially from unknown parties and those with the “+” prefix which originate overseas:

  • Ignore such calls and the caller’s instructions. No government agency will instruct payment through a telephone call or other social messaging platforms (WeChat or Facebook) or ask you for personal banking information such as your Internet banking passwords.
  • For foreigners receiving calls from persons claiming to be from the police in your home country, call your embassy or high commission to verify the claims of the caller.
  • Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on the website or to callers over the phone. Personal information and bank details such as Internet bank account usernames and passwords, OTP codes from tokens, are useful to criminals.
  • Do not make any funds transfer if the caller is of dubious identity.
  • Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment.
  • If in doubt, always hang up the call and check with the Singapore Police Force.

If you have any information related to such crime, please call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000, or dial ‘999’ for urgent police assistance. To seek scam-related advice, members of the public may call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722- 6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg.