'Fake friend' scam syndicate busted in Johor, 3 Malaysians extradited to Singapore

The transnational syndicate is believed to be involved in more than 40 reports with total losses of more than $250,000.

A fake friend scam text message (left) and handcuffs on a pile of cash (Photos: Getty Images)
A fake friend scam text message (left) and handcuffs on a pile of cash (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE - Three Malaysians were extradited to Singapore on Tuesday (28 March) for suspected involvement in 'fake friend' call scams targeting Singaporeans.

The men, aged between 18 and 27, were arrested in a joint operation conducted by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Johor Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) of the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP.

The raid was conducted at an apartment complex in Johor, Malaysia last Monday (20 March).

Preliminary investigations revealed that scam operations by the transnational syndicate started early this year. It is believed to be involved in more than 40 reported incidents, with total losses of more than $250,000.

The three men will be charged in court on Thursday (30 March) with conspiracy to cheat. If found guilty, they may face imprisonment of up to three years and a fine.

Rising fake friend call scams

According to the police, more than 1,300 victims have fallen prey to fake friend call scams, with total losses amounting to at least $4.33 million since January this year.

This comes a few days after the police warned of a rising trend of jade e-commerce scams on TikTok, and an earlier police report about more younger adults falling for scams.

"Fake friend" scams typically involve fraudsters contacting victims via text or phone calls pretending to be someone they know, before asking for financial help, the Singapore police said.

“Fake friend call scams are on the rise and this is a serious concern. The Singapore Police Force has been working closely with the Royal Malaysia Police to detect and arrest these transnational syndicates who prey on our citizens," said David Chew, Director of CAD.

"We will continue to take tough action against individuals who perpetuate scams, even if they are based overseas.”

The police advise members of the public to download the ScamShield app and set security features such as enabling two-factor authentication for their bank, social media and Singpass accounts. Limits on Internet banking transactions such as those via PayNow should also be set, the police said.

Potential scam requests should be verified with family and friends using alternative means such as physical meetups, video calls or emails, the police said, adding that the public should avoid using new contact details on their phone.

Members of the public can also visit www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-722-6688 to check for scam signs through official sources, the police added.

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