SINGAPORE: Police have warned of a new scam circulating on WhatsApp in which scammers claimed to be selling gold bars at cheaper prices to victims, who did not receive the gold after making payment.
The scammers communicated with victims using compromised WhatsApp accounts belonging to the victims' friends, said the police on Wednesday (Jun 2).
Victims were asked if they would like to purchase gold bars at a price 30 per cent below market rate.
The scammers claimed that the gold bars were being sold cheaply as they were seized by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority or Singapore Customs and were being auctioned off, said the police in a news release.
The scammers provided a fake invoice purportedly issued by Singapore Customs.
They then instructed victims to transfer the payment to bank accounts they provided. Some victims were told to meet up with the scammers to collect the gold bars.
"Victims only discovered that they had been scammed when they did not receive the gold bars, or when they realised that their friends' WhatsApp accounts had been hacked after contacting their friends who did not turn up to complete the transaction," said the police.
The police reminded members of the public to be wary of "unusual requests" received over WhatsApp, even if they were sent by contacts.
"Always call your friend to verify the authenticity of the request, but do not do so through WhatsApp as the account might have been taken over by scammers," said the police.
"If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Purchase only from authorised sellers or reputable sources, especially for high-value items."
To prevent WhatsApp accounts from being compromised, the police also advised people to enable two-step verification for their accounts.
People should also contact their telco service provider to change their voicemail account's default personal identification number (PIN) or deactivate voicemail, said the police.
This is because scammers can leverage voicemail to gain unauthorised access to victims' WhatsApp accounts.
"The scammer would deliberately fail the verification process by keying in the wrong six-digit verification codes repeatedly when he is trying to log into a victim's WhatsApp account on the scammer’s device," said the police.
After repeated failed verifications, WhatsApp will initiate voice verification by calling the victim to provide the verification code in an audio message.
If the victim does not take the call or the phone is switched off, the audio message containing the verification code will be directed to the victim's voicemail.
The scammer will then use the default PIN by telco service providers to access the victim's voicemail account remotely, retrieve the verification code from the audio message and take over the victim's WhatsApp account, said the police.
After taking over the victim's WhatsApp account, the scammer could enable two-step verification to prevent the victim from regaining control over the account, added the police.