SINGAPORE: A total of 19 people were arrested for their suspected involvement in Ponzi-like job scams, after some victims were told to pay membership fees in order to earn commissions for online jobs.
In a news release on Wednesday (Oct 13), the police said 16 men and three women, aged between 18 and 35, were arrested during an islandwide operation on Oct 11 and Oct 12.
Preliminary investigations revealed that bogus companies were believed "to be running Ponzi-like schemes where the new job seekers' money (were) used to pay the promised commissions to existing job holders", the police said.
The 19 people were believed to have facilitated the schemes by opening corporate and personal bank accounts, advertising and recruiting potential part-time job seekers, as well as fraudulently registering and supplying mobile phone lines.
"Some of them also allegedly rented out or sold their bank accounts to the scammers," said the police.
Police investigations are ongoing, they added.
SCAMMERS OFFERED FAKE ONLINE JOBS
Between Oct 8 and Oct 10, the police received several reports where victims received unsolicited text messages, WhatsApp messages, Facebook or Instagram posts, or had come across advertisements online promoting highly paid part-time affiliate marketing related jobs.
The scammers would offer fake online jobs that required the victims to complete easy tasks, such as following social media accounts and liking social media posts to boost their viewership.
In order to perform the job and earn their commissions, the victims were directed to sign up for free membership accounts on websites and mobile applications provided by the scammers, said the police.
After signing up for the free membership, they were offered different member packages, ranging from S$10 to a few thousand dollars, with varying amounts of commission paid per task.
The victims were then told to pay the membership fees via cryptocurrency or bank transfers to unknown individuals before they could start performing the job to earn commissions.
"In most cases, the victims would be convinced that it was a legitimate job as they would receive commissions and profit during the early stage of their memberships," said the police.
The victims realised that they were scammed when they did not receive further commissions or were unable to make withdrawals from their member accounts.
The police cautioned job seekers to "be wary of job advertisements that promise the convenience of working from home and being paid a high salary for relatively simple job responsibilities".
"Legitimate businesses will not require job seekers to utilise their own bank accounts to receive money on the businesses’ behalf or to make upfront payments to secure the job offers and earn commissions," they said.
The police added that these acts were "common ruses" used by scammers to lure people into participating in their schemes or scams.
Members of the public were also reminded to always reject requests to use their personal bank accounts to receive and transfer money for others, so as to avoid being involved in money laundering activities.
Those found guilty of cheating can be jailed up to 10 years and fined. For receiving stolen property, they may be jailed up to five years, fined or both.
For money laundering, they may be jailed up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000 or both.