Singapore police warn of kidnap scams targeting China students

Police are warning of a kidnap scam involving Chinese national students in Singapore, where their parents are deceived into thinking that their children have been kidnapped and that a ransom must be paid to secure their release.

In a statement on Friday (14 September), police said that they have received several reports since January 2018 about the scam.

It typically begins with the students receiving unsolicited calls from scammers claiming to be staff from telecommunication companies, the Chinese embassy, law enforcement or the court. These scammers then claim that the students’ mobile numbers and/or bank accounts have been involved in a crime.

The calls are then transferred to a person claiming to be an officer from the China Police or Interpol. The so-called officer tells the victims that they have committed criminal offences and must prove their innocence by doing any of the following:

  • Withdraw their money and pass it to strangers or transfer money to another bank account.
  • Transfer money via cryptocurrency cash deposit machine or purchase Bitcoins and provide the Bitcoin registration numbers to the callers. Most victims have been asked to conduct these transfers at a bitcoin machine at Tiong Bahru.

“Victims were then instructed to update their whereabouts to the scammers over the next few days. Thereafter, the syndicate would inform the victims to change their SIM cards and log out from their social media messenger. Victims were also asked to give their personal information on their families in China,” said a police spokesman.

The final step in the scam occurs when the scammers then use the personal information to find the victims’ parents in China and deceive them that their children have been kidnapped.

“In some cases, the scammers may even instruct the victims to call their parents to tell them that they have been kidnapped and to ask them to transfer the ransom to a particular bank account,” added the spokesman.

Police would also like to advise members of the public who receive unsolicited calls to do the following: don’t panic, don’t believe and don’t give.

“The scammers may try to make you panic and keep you on the phone so that you have no time to verify if it was a scam. Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment,” advised the spokesman.

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