Cross-border Internet love scam syndicate busted by Singapore and Malaysian police

Money seized during a joint investigation of an Internet love scam syndicate operating in Singapore and Malaysia. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)

Singapore and Malaysian police have solved at least 10 cases of cross-border Internet love scams involving losses of over S$240,000 in a joint investigation that began last December.

The investigation carried out by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) led to the arrest of three suspects in Malaysia, said a press release from the SPF on Thursday (8 Feb).

Two women and a man were arrested by the Malaysian police in December 2017 for suspected involvement in several Internet love scam cases in both Singapore and Malaysia. It was found that the syndicate allegedly relied on individuals in Singapore to receive and transfer money scammed from victims.

The Singapore police then investigated six women and two men in January 2018 for allegedly using their bank accounts to receive funds from victims of the syndicate. Some 21 bank accounts were frozen and more than S$50,000 recovered as a result of these investigations.

The 10 cases solved in the joint investigation all occurred in Singapore.

CAD director David Chew said, “The foreign criminal syndicates involved in Internet love scams are targeting victims on both sides of the Causeway. The SPF will continue to collaborate closely with our counterparts from the RMP to eradicate these syndicates who attempt to use territorial boundaries and the anonymity of the Internet to fleece Malaysian and Singaporean victims.”

He added that the police would make every effort to detect and intercept the scammers’ network of local money launderers who abuse the financial system to help syndicates transfer their ill-gotten gains.

The SPF said there were 825 such Internet love scam cases in 2017, up from 635 cases in 2016 – an increase of nearly 30 per cent. The total amount cheated in 2017 was about S$37 million, up 54.2-per-cent from the year before.

To avoid falling prey to these scams, the police advises the public to be careful when befriending strangers online or when being asked to send money to people whom they do not know.

Anyone found guilty of acquiring or transferring criminal benefits from such scams faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $500,000, or both.

Related stories:

Internet love scams on the rise, though overall crime rate falls 1% in 2017

Singapore still a ‘safe and secure home’: Ministry of Home Affairs

Fewer immigration offences in 2017, but more cases of contraband smuggling and sham marriages