The Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) of the Singapore Police Force, together with banks including, DBS, UOB, OCBC, HSBC and Standard Chartered, led a three-day joint operation between 27 and 29 January 2021. Over 200 cases of investment scam and fake gambling platform scam were successfully intervened.
Between 2019 and 2020, investment scams registered a 126% increase to 1,102 cases with losses of at least S$69.5 million. In the same period, fake gambling platform scams registered an increase of more than 1,800% to 299 cases accounting for S$15.4 million losses.
In investment scams, the scammers would claim to be financial professionals and cultivate victims on online dating platforms. Once lured, the scammers will introduce victims to investment websites or mobile applications. Victims will then be enticed to invest and asked to transfer money to banks predominantly in Hong Kong and China. Victims will also be asked to pay administrative fees, security fees or taxes in order to reap profits. In many instances, victims will earn an initial profit from the investment, leading them to believe that the investment is legitimate and lucrative. Once larger amounts of monies are deposited into the scammers’ accounts, they will become uncontactable.
In fake gambling platform scams, victims often befriend scammers through online dating platforms before they are introduced to online betting applications or websites. In some instances, victims are convinced by the scammers that these online betting platforms have loopholes which would allow those placing bets to reap easy profits. To place the bets, victims are required to open a betting account with the said platform. They would then be given a bank account number to deposit their money in exchange for betting credits and to cash out their winnings. However, the victims would be subsequently informed that their betting accounts had been frozen and that they would need to deposit more money in order to cash out their winnings. The scammers would become uncontactable thereafter, and the websites would be inaccessible after the additional monies were transferred.
During the three-day enforcement operation, officers from Commercial Affairs Department, Criminal Investigation Department, the seven Police land divisions and the banks conducted live intervention by analysing fund flow of scam victims. ASC officers then engaged these unsuspecting victims to inform them that they had fallen prey to scams and advised them to stop any further monetary transfers. Many of them were completely unaware that they had been scammed, prior to the engagement.
76 men and 22 women, aged between 17 and 59, are currently assisting with investigations for their suspected involvement in 359 investment scams and fake gambling platform scams. The suspects are believed to have facilitated the syndicates by opening bank accounts or transferring monies for the syndicate. Further investigations revealed that victims of fake gambling platform scams, who had opened betting accounts and placed bets on online betting applications or websites are liable of offences under the Remote Gambling Act.
Under Section 8(1)(b) of the Remote Gambling Act 2014, an individual who, in Singapore, gambles using remote communication and using a remote gambling service that is not provided by a person otherwise exempt shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both. Under Section 420 of the Penal Code, an individual who cheats and dishonestly induce a delivery of property shall be guilty of an offence and shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine. The offence of money laundering under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act carries an imprisonment term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000.
Members of the public are advised to adopt the following crime prevention measures:
- Be wary when befriending strangers on any social media or dating platform;
- Understand that investments with high returns come with high risks;
- Always check with a licensed financial advisor before making any investment;
- Check if an entity is blacklisted on the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Investor Alert List. Deal with companies that are licensed and regulated by MAS;
- Be careful when dealing with unregulated entities as you will have little recourse if things go wrong. If an entity is based outside of Singapore, check if it is regulated with the respective overseas authority;
- It is an offence to place bets on illegal online betting sites or applications. Do not engage in such services and report them to the authorities; and
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Victims may be lured with the promises of easy winnings. However, such platforms are often programmed and rigged by the scammers.
For more information on scams, members of the public can visit www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688. Anyone with information on such scams may call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.
Photo: Example of an online platform that is used in a fake gambling platform scam
SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
31 January 2021 @ 6:00 PM