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Woman arrested in China officials impersonation scam involving staged kidnap

Woman arrested in China officials impersonation scam involving staged kidnap

Screenshot of the messages between scammer and victim and a fake official investigation document. (Photo: SPF)

SINGAPORE: A 21-year-old woman suspected to be involved in a China officials impersonation scam was arrested after police received a report on a kidnapping case which turned out to be staged.

The police said in a news release on Saturday (Sep 24) that they received a report on Tuesday that another 21-year-old woman had allegedly been kidnapped. 

Before the report was made, the victim's parents in China received a video of their daughter with her hands and legs tied up, with a ransom demand from an unknown person communicating in Mandarin.

Following the report, police conducted searches and investigations to locate the victim and she was found to be safe and sound on Thursday, in a Yishun flat rented by the 21-year-old woman.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the victim had earlier received a call from someone purporting to be from the Health Ministry in Singapore. The person alleged that a phone line registered in the victim’s name was used to cheat people in China.

"When the victim denied this, the call was redirected to another scammer purporting to be an officer from the 'China Police', who further alleged that a bank account in her name was also found to be involved in money laundering activities in China," said the police.

The victim was deceived into transferring more than S$350,000 as "bail money" to the scammer to avoid being deported.

The victim, acting on the scammer's instructions, also recorded a video of herself being tied up to assist in purported investigations.

"Thereafter, the scammer told the victim to cease communication and isolate herself in a 'safe house' that the scammer had arranged," said the police.

The victim did not know the scammer had sent the video to her parents in China and demanded a ransom for her release.

After the police report was made, the police found the victim in a unit rented by the 21-year-old woman.

The woman had acted on the scammer’s instructions to rent the room for the victim, and handed over a mobile phone with SIM card for the victim to use to communicate with the scammer, follow-up investigations revealed.

Police investigations are ongoing.

A total of 476 China officials impersonation scams were reported in the first eight months of this year, with losses amounting to at least S$57.3 million. 

For the whole of last year, 752 cases were reported, with losses amounting to S$106.4 million. This was a jump from 2020, when there were 442 cases and reported losses of S$39.7 million.

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.
Source: CNA/fh(gr)
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