More than S$21.2 million recovered by police's anti-scam centre in first year of operations

More than S$21.2 million recovered by police's anti-scam centre in first year of operations

The police have recovered more than S$21.2 million from scam cases since its anti-scam centre started operations about a year ago. The figure is about 41 per cent of the amount scammers attempted to cheat victims of in the cases handled by the centre, said the police on Thursday (Jul 30). Caroline Rolle with more.

SINGAPORE: The police have recovered more than S$21.2 million from scam cases since its anti-scam centre started operations about a year ago. 

The figure is about 41 per cent of the amount scammers attempted to cheat victims of in the cases handled by the centre, said the police on Thursday (Jul 30).

One year since its establishment, the centre has handled more than 8,600 reports on cases such as love scams, e-commerce scams and technical support scams.

It has also successfully frozen more than 6,100 bank accounts, intercepting the flow of victims' money to scammers, said the police.

"Apart from freezing of accounts, the ASC (anti-scam centre) is actively involved in real time interception and recovery efforts for cases where monies were transferred on the same day," said the police. 

One of these cases involved a French pharmaceutical company which was deceived into transferring €6.64 million (S$10.2 million) to a Singapore bank account for large supplies of surgical masks and hand sanitisers. 

The first alert was raised by a Singapore-based bank on Mar 14, and authorities managed to recover more than S$6.4 million on the same day - the biggest recovery by the centre so far, said the police. 

A 39-year-old man was arrested for money laundering offences when he returned to Singapore.

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The ASC was set up on Jun 18, 2019 as a “nerve centre” for investigating scam-related crimes and to disrupt scammers’ operations and help mitigate victims’ losses. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)

E-commerce scams relating to the sale of face masks and hand sanitisers surged at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the police, adding that most of these scams took place on Carousell. 

Authorities engaged the online platform to introduce Carousell Protection for all products related to COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This collaboration delivered tangible results in the fight against scammers who were taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation," said the police.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT SCAM 

In a case of a technical support scam, a 69-year-old man browsing the Internet on his computer on Jun 8 received a pop-up message saying his hard disk was damaged. 

According to the police, the man then called the number in the pop-up message and spoke to someone claiming to be a staff member of a technology company, who could help him address the problem.

The victim was asked for his personal particulars such as his bank account number and one-time password. He was then told that someone was trying to access his online bank account, and was instructed to switch off his mobile phone and not to check his Internet banking account for the next few days.

Three days later, the victim received a call from a local bank informing him of unauthorised transactions made to his account. 

"The retiree lodged a police report. With the collaboration of the banks and the ASC team, more than S$11,000 was recovered," said the police.

The ASC was was set up on Jun 18, 2019, when it started an initiative with three local banks - DBS, OCBC and UOB - to take action when unusual banking activities are detected. 

This collaboration has since been extended to include more banks, as well as remittance agencies and telcos.

READ: Why scam cases continue to rise and what is being done about them

READ: Cybercrime jumps more than 50% in 2019, new threats emerge from COVID-19 pandemic

In the first half of this year, more than 1,500 local mobile lines have been terminated as they were used for carrying out scams, said the police.

While there have been success cases in recovering victims' money, the police said it is often difficult to recover funds that have already been paid or transferred to scammers.

"The police would like to remind the public never to give your bank details and one-time banking passwords to anyone, including persons purporting to represent the police or other law enforcement agencies," said the Singapore Police Force. 

Source: CNA/kv(gs)

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