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Two victims of staged kidnap scams found in Cambodia after travelling from Singapore

The two university students were told to travel to Cambodia and record videos of themselves pretending to be kidnap victims.

Two victims of staged kidnap scams found in Cambodia after travelling from Singapore

A kidnapped man in a dark room. (File photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Two university students living in Singapore were found in Cambodia after being tricked into travelling there as part of staged kidnap scams, said the police on Friday (Oct 28).

In both cases, the victims' parents who were based in China received videos of their sons with their hands tied together. They also received ransom demands from unknown people.

The parents reported the cases to the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Oct 19 and Oct 22.

The first case involved a 21-year-old student who has been living in Singapore for at least four years, while the second case involved a 22-year-old student who had been living in Singapore for at least three years. 

The students in both cases received calls from scammers who claimed to be police officers from China. The scammers told the victims that they were implicated in the spread of misinformation in China – in the first case, about monkeypox, and the second, about COVID-19 in Guangdong.

The scammers demanded the victims' assistance in investigations and told them to travel to Cambodia to carry out "missions", said the SPF.

When the victims arrived in Phnom Penh, they were instructed by the scammers to record videos of themselves pretending to be kidnapped victims for the purposes of scam education and investigations.

They were also asked to stay at different hotels and to cease all communication with their family and friends. 

The scammers then sent the videos to the victims' parents and demanded ransoms – RMB 2,000,000 (S$389,797) in the first case and RMB 800,000 in the second case. No ransoms were paid.

With the help of the Cambodian National Police (CNP) and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Phnom Penh, the police located the victims in Phnom Penh and reunited them with their families.

Police investigations into both cases are ongoing.

“The exercise of police powers is an exercise of state powers. Overseas law enforcement agencies do not have any legal powers to conduct investigations in Singapore without the approval of the Singapore Government," said Mr David Chew, director of the Commercial Affairs Department.

"Demands made by overseas law enforcement officers requesting victims to comply with their orders in Singapore, including orders to remit money overseas, transfer money into Singapore bank accounts, deliver documents in Singapore or travel overseas to carry out secret police missions are illegal, and should be ignored."

He advised members of the public targeted by these criminals, especially foreign students in Singapore, to check with the police, or call their embassies or high commissions to verify the claims of the purported police officers from their home country. 

"As police powers cannot be exercised outside our national borders, once victims or their money leaves Singapore, we have to rely on foreign authorities to help trace it and ensure the safety of victims," said Mr Chew. 

He thanked the Cambodian police for their support and assistance in locating and ensuring the safety of the two victims.

"The police take a serious view against any person who may be involved in scams, whether knowingly or unwittingly. Anyone found to be involved in such scams will be subjected to police investigations," said the SPF.

Screenshots of text messages from the scammer in one of the two cases. (Images: Singapore Police Force)

Members of the public are advised by the police to take the following precautions when they receive unsolicited calls, especially from unknown parties with the + prefix phone numbers that originate from overseas.

  • Ignore such calls and the caller’s instructions. No government agency will instruct payment through a telephone call or other social messaging platforms (WeChat or Facebook), or ask for personal banking information such as Internet banking passwords.
  • For foreigners receiving calls from people claiming to be from the police in their home country, call their embassy or high commission to verify the claims of the caller.
  • Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on a website or to callers over the phone. Personal information and bank details, such as Internet bank account usernames and passwords, OTP codes from tokens, are useful to criminals.
  • Do not make any fund transfers if the caller is of dubious identity.
  • Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before acting.
  • If an overseas law enforcement officer is ordering you to do things in Singapore from overseas under the colour of their national office, hang up the call and check with the SPF.

Those with information related to such crimes can call the police hotline at 1800 255 0000, or dial 999 for urgent police assistance.

To seek scam-related advice, members of the public may call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800 722 6688 or visit its website.

Source: CNA/ic(mi)

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