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WhatsApp Web impersonation scam: 16-year-old among 19 individuals under investigation for involvement

They had allegedly facilitated the scams by relinquishing bank accounts, internet banking or Singpass credentials for monetary gains

A total of 19 individuals in Singapore are under investigation for involvement in impersonation scams using
A total of 19 individuals in Singapore are under investigation for involvement in impersonation scams using "WhatsApp Web" phishing websites. (PHOTOS: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A 16-year-old was among 19 individuals under investigation for being involved a variant of the recent fake "WhatsApp Web" scam which saw at least 237 victims fallen prey, with losses amounting to at least $606,000.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a media statement on Sunday (26 November) that these 19 individuals - 13 men and six women - are aged between 16 and 50, and were brought under investigation following an island-wide anti-scam enforcement operation conducted from 15 to 24 November.

They are suspected to be involved in a recent variant of impersonation scam whereby they used compromised WhatsApp accounts obtained via fake WhatsApp Web phishing websites to impersonate users and scam their family or friends.

SPF said that preliminary investigations revealed that the 19 persons had allegedly facilitated the scam cases by relinquishing their bank accounts, internet banking credentials and/or disclosing Singpass credentials. They had done so either for monetary gains between $200 and $3,400, or for loans which they did not eventually receive.

93 victims had fallen prey to scam variant since November

Since November, at least 237 victims have fallen prey to social media impersonation scams in general, with total losses amounting to at least $606,000. Specific to the variant in which the 19 individuals were allegedly involved in, at least 93 victims have fallen prey, with total losses amounting to at least $176,000.

In these cases, the scammers would use compromised WhatsApp accounts to reach out to the victims' family members, friends or associates in the contact lists. The scammers would impersonate the victims and give various reasons to get their family members or friends to loan them monies.

SPF said in its media statement that the scammers would typically claim that the monies are needed urgently for themselves, to pay for purchases, or to help a friend/relative in need amid medical emergencies. The scammers would claim that their bank accounts have been restricted, and may request victims to provide a screenshot showing the transfer.

Victims would be asked to transfer money to unfamiliar bank accounts or PayNow numbers. They would realise they had been scammed after contacting or being contacted by their family/friends who claim to not have received any monies.

How to avoid being accomplice to scam crimes

The police said that, to avoid being an accomplice in these scam crimes, the public should always reject seemingly attractive money-making opportunities promising fast and easy pay-outs for the use of their Singpass accounts, bank accounts, or for allowing their personal bank accounts to be used to receive and transfer money for others. They would like to remind the public that individuals will be held accountable if they are found to be linked to such crimes.

The offence of acquiring benefits from criminal conduct under Section 54(5)(a) of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 carries an imprisonment of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $500,000.

Meanwhile, the offence of cheating by deceiving banks into opening bank accounts that were not meant for one’s own use under Section 417 read with Section 109 of the Penal Code 1871 carries an imprisonment term of up to three years and/or a fine.

The offence of relinquishing one’s bank account login details under Section 3(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1993 carries an imprisonment term of up to two years and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The offence of disclosing one’s Singpass credentials under Section 8 of the Computer Misuse Act 1993 carries an imprisonment term of up to three years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

For more information on scams, members of the public can visit www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-7226688. Anyone with information on such scams may call the police at 1800-2550000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.

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