Man arrested in China officials impersonation scam involving staged kidnap
There were about 70 such cases reported in September, with losses amounting to more than S$10 million, according to figures reported by the police.
SINGAPORE: A 22-year-old man has been arrested for his suspected involvement in a case of China officials impersonation scam after police received a report that a 19-year-old woman had been kidnapped. The alleged kidnap turned out to be staged.
Before the report was made, the woman's parents in China received a video of their daughter with her legs and hands tied up and mouth taped shut, the police said in a news release on Tuesday (Oct 18), adding that the video was accompanied with a ransom demand from an unknown person communicating in Mandarin.
The police tracked down the woman on Friday, who turned out to be a victim of the scam.
"The victim was eventually found to be safe and sound in a flat in Woodlands, rented by the man, who was later traced and arrested," said the police.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the victim had received an unsolicited call from someone purporting to be a Ministry of Health (MOH) officer. The person alleged that the victim had a parcel detained at the customs which contained illegal COVID-19 medicine.
The victim was then routed to another scammer masquerading as the "China Police" for investigations, said the police.
"The scammer further alleged that a bank card in the victim’s name was found to be involved in money laundering activities in China, and that the banking facilities belonging to her and her family would be frozen as a result."
According to the police, the victim was then allegedly deceived into transferring S$170,000 as “security deposit” to a bank account controlled by the scammer, so that her case can be expedited.
The victim, acting on the scammer's instructions, was also instructed to record a video of herself with her hands and legs bound to pretend she had been captured.
The victim was told that the video would be used for their investigations to lure and arrest the syndicate members, said the police.
“On Oct 13, the scammer instructed the victim to isolate herself and cease communication with others to facilitate their investigations.”
Investigations revealed that the 22-year-old man had purportedly acted on the scammer’s instructions to rent the room for the victim, and had handed over a SIM card for the victim to use for communication with the scammer.
Police investigations are ongoing.
From January to September, a total of 548 China officials impersonation scams were reported, with losses amounting to at least S$67.9 million.
Just last month, there were about 70 cases reported, with losses amounting to more than S$10 million, according to figures reported in the police news release last month and this month.
The police also highlighted that China Police, Interpol and other overseas law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction to help with any form of investigation without approval from the Singapore Government.
They also advised members of the public to take the following precautions when they receive unsolicited calls from unknown parties, especially 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;
• For foreigners receiving calls from people claiming to be from police in your home country, call your embassy or high commission to verify the claims of the callers;
• Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on websites or to callers over the phone;
• 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;
• If in doubt, always hang up the call and check with the Singapore Police Force.