$12M lost to China officials impersonation scams from Jan-Nov: Singapore police

File photo of a phone user (Yahoo News Singapore)

A total of $12 million has been lost to scams involving impersonation of Chinese officials from January to November this year, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said Thursday (28 December).

Police have received at least 158 reports where victims were duped by persons pretending to be a Chinese government official from the China Ministry of Public Security or China INTERPOL, the SPF said in a statement.

Typically, the victims would get messages or calls from strangers. These calls may look like they are from official government hotline numbers such as “110” or “999”. The victims would be told they are required to assist in criminal investigations and prove that their money was “clean”.

The victims were instructed to give their internet banking details, passwords, or directed to a fake website of the Singapore Police Force or the China Police to key in their banking details. They might also be shown fake “warrant of arrests” bearing their photographs on these websites.

In addition, a number of victims were also asked to withdraw their money and pass it to strangers or remit the money to China-based bank accounts.

They were also instructed to send nude photos of themselves to prove that they did not have features on the body resembling the criminals whom the scammers claimed they were looking for.

If the victims did not do as told, they were then threatened with arrests by the ‘China authorities’ or exposure of the photos.

The police cited two recent cases of victims who fell prey to such scams.

In one case, male 19-year-old Chinese national student had believed that he was under investigation by the Chinese INTERPOL. In order to prove his innocence, he followed the scammers’ instructions, including cutting off all communication with his friends and family members. He was deceived into assisting the impersonators in scam cases targeted at Singapore residents.

In another case, a female 17-year-old Chinese national student had believed that her credit card was being used for money laundering after she received a phone call from a scammer. In order to show that she did not have any alleged sexual relationship with a money launderer, she was told to send nude photos of herself to verify features on her body. She was later asked to transfer money to a bank account and when she failed to do so, she was threatened with the exposure of her photos on Facebook.

The police advised members of the public to take precautions when they receive such phone calls. For instance, they should ignore the callers’ instructions. They should also refrain from giving personal information and banking details.