$167,000 lost to scammers involving CNY goodies since Sept 2023 after victims downloaded malicious Android Package Kit

The police said that victims in these cases would come across the fraudulent advertisements on Facebook or Instagram.

Assorted Chinese New Year goodies with Chinese character Prosperous for sale
Assorted Chinese New Year goodies with Chinese character Prosperous for sale

SINGAPORE — At least five victims have lost a total of $167,000 to scams involving food items like Chinese New Year goodies since September 2023, the Singapore Police Force said on Thursday (18 Jan). According to the police, many of these fraudulent advertisements were posted on Facebook and Instagram.

The police said that victims in these cases would come across the fraudulent posts on Facebook or Instagram, and upon clicking the link of these advertisements, would be redirected to messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram messengers to communicate with the "sellers".

To place "orders" for the food items, victims would then be directed to download an Android Package Kit (APK) through malicious links. The APK is an app created for the Android operating system.

After they had downloaded the APK, which granted the app accessibility services, the victims would then be instructed to key in their banking details to make full or partial payment.

The scammers would then be able to access the victims' devices remotely to steal banking credentials and passwords without the victims' knowledge. They would only discover the scam when they found unauthorised transactions from their banking accounts.

Public reminded about dangers of downloading third-party and dubious apps

The police reminded members of the public on the danger of downloading apps from third-party or dubious sites, and encouraged the public to take precautionary measures such as using ScamShield and checking with the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-722-6688, or visiting www.scamalert.sg.

Additionally, the police encouraged members of the public to tell authorities, family and friends about scams, and to report suspicious content or advertisements to Facebook or Instagram. They should also initiate in-app blocking by reporting the number linked to the advertisement to WhatsApp.

The police also encouraged the public to report any fraudulent transactions to their bank immediately.

What to do if you think you've downloaded malware on your phone

For those who have already downloaded and installed the APK app, or suspect that their phone is infected with malware, the police advise to take the following steps:

  • Turn your phone to “flight mode”. Check that Wi-Fi is switched off and do not switch it on.

  • Run an anti-virus scan on your phone.

  • Check your bank account/Singpass/CPF etc for any unauthorised transaction(s) using other device(s).

  • If there are unauthorised transaction(s), report to the bank, relevant authorities, and lodge a Police report.

  • After completing the first three steps, if you believe that your phone has not been infected with malware, you may resume using your phone. As a further precaution, you may consider doing a "factory reset of your phone and changing important passwords.

If members of the public have any information relating to such crimes or are in doubt, they can call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. All information will be kept strictly confidential. Those who require urgent police assistance can dial ‘999’.

For more information on scams, members of the public can also visit www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-722-6688.

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