SINGAPORE: The police on Friday (Dec 20) advised the public to be wary of a scam involving the sale of fake gold ingots.
This comes after an 83-year-old store owner filed a report with the police on Sunday, after being cheated of S$120,000 the day before.
The victim, who requested to remain anonymous, described the incident in a phone interview with the media.
On the morning of Dec 13 at around 10am, the man received a call at his shop. The caller said he had gotten the victim’s number from a friend. He said he had the same rare Chinese surname and asked if there were clans or associations related to their surname.
The caller then asked if the victim would like to have a meal together. The victim agreed.
Close to noon, the caller and a woman, whom the caller claimed was his wife, appeared at the victim’s shop.
The victim said they looked like they were in their 40s and believes they were both Chinese nationals.
The caller introduced himself as a construction worker, and said that he had excavated an old urn in at his work site in Holland Village. Inside the urn were some gold ingots, old Chinese currency and a will.
When they went for lunch, the caller took out a piece of gold that he claimed to have cut from one of the gold ingots. The victim asked if it was genuine, so the trio took a taxi to a pawnshop to verify its authenticity.
The pawnshop confirmed it was real and valued the 6g piece of gold at S$230.
The caller said that he had much more of this gold at home, and he wanted to sell it for S$120,000 to the victim, whom he affectionately called "shu shu" (uncle in Mandarin).
Life was tough in Singapore and he wanted to buy a tractor that cost 600,000 yuan back home, the caller told the victim. They were offering to sell the gold ingots at below market value as they were departing Singapore and would not be able to clear customs with the items, the scammers claimed.
The victim, feeling sorry for him, agreed on the sum. He told them he had the money at home.
The woman followed the victim home. About twenty minutes later, the caller turned up with two plastic bags weighing about 20kg in total,
According to the police, there were 159 gold ingots and six gold Buddha statues.
The victim retrieved the money from his safe deposit box. When he asked the scammers for identification, the caller said he had forgotten to bring it.
The next day, the man began to feel uneasy over the situation. Around 1pm, he took some of the items and went back to the same pawnshop to get them verified.
The store rejected the gold pieces. This was when the man knew he was duped. He called one of his daughters, who took him to Geylang Neighborhood Police Centre. They lodged a report at about 8pm.
He has not been able to contact the scammers since they took the cash.
Police investigations are ongoing.
This is the first fake gold ingot case since a similar scam was reported in 2014 involving businessman Mr Roland Tay Hai Choon.
Three male Chinese nationals were jailed the following year for attempting to deceive Mr Tay, the director of Direct Funeral Services, by selling him gold ingots for S$180,000.
To avoid falling victim to such scams, the police said members of the public should only buy from established and authorised retailers.
They should also be wary of offers that “sound too good to be true” and enlist a professional’s assistance to verify the authenticity and value of any high-value items before making payment.