Government official impersonation scams in Singapore: CPF, police say at least $13.3 million lost in December

At least 120 people have fallen prey to the elaborate scheme, which involved victims being instructed to transfer their CPF savings to their personal accounts.

Hands on keyboard, Singapore notes
Three of these scam cases collectively lost approximately S$488,000 in CPF savings. (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE – The police and Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board have issued a joint warning to the public about a growing scam involving the impersonation of government officials. The scammers would pretend to be bank or government officials, and convince victims to transfer their CPF savings into their personal bank accounts.

In December 2023, at least 120 individuals had fallen victim to this scheme, resulting in total losses exceeding $13.3 million, the CPF and the police said in a press release on Thursday (1 Feb).

Three of these cases, which involved withdrawals made between November and December 2023, collectively lost approximately $488,000 in CPF savings.

How scammers exploit impersonation tactics to dupe victims

According to the joint press release, the scammers' modus operandi involves making unsolicited calls to victims, initially impersonating bank officers. During these calls, victims are questioned about alleged "suspicious banking transactions".

Upon denial or refutation by victims, the scammer transfers the call to another individual posing as a government official, often claiming to be a police officer or Chinese official in past cases. The second scammer accuses victims of engaging in criminal activities such as fraud or money laundering.

Subsequently, victims are coerced into transferring money to supposed "security accounts", which are bank accounts allegedly designated by the "authorities". This is under the pretext of supporting investigations or preventing the abuse of bank and CPF accounts.

Scammers may also request banking credentials, credit card details, or one-time passwords (OTPs) during the course of the scam.

In the identified cases, victims were instructed to transfer their CPF savings to their personal banking accounts. Further demands for transfers or sensitive banking information would follow.

Victims typically realised they have been scammed when the scammers become uncontactable or after verifying the situation with banks or the police.

The police and CPF Board emphasised that legitimate government officials will never request members of the public to transfer money, provide banking credentials, or share CPF-related information over the phone.

CPF implemented enhanced security measures

In response to these scams, the CPF Board implemented security measures in November, including setting $2,000 as the default daily limit for online CPF withdrawals to protect its members.

Members who wish to disable online withdrawals can do so by activating the CPF withdrawal lock, with any increases in the daily withdrawal limit subject to Singpass face verification and a 12-hour cooling period.

"These measures create friction for scammers and help to reduce losses, but ultimately, it is important that members of the public stay alert against the latest scam tactics and avoid falling prey,' said the police and CPF board.

Members of the public possessing information related to such scams are encouraged to contact the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit a report online.

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