In an island-wide anti-scam enforcement operation conducted on 11 and 12 October 2021, the Singapore Police Force (“SPF”) arrested 16 men and three women, aged between 18 and 35, for their suspected involvement in perpetrating Ponzi-like job scams involving bogus companies.
Between 8 October 2021 and 10 October 2021, the Police received several reports where the victims received unsolicited text messages, Whatsapp messages, Facebook or Instagram posts, or had come across advertisements online promoting highly paid part-time affiliate marketing related jobs. The scammers would offer fake online jobs which required the victims to complete easy tasks such as following social media accounts and liking social media posts to boost its viewership. In order to perform the job and earn their commission, the victims were directed to sign up for free membership accounts on websites and mobile applications provided by the scammers.
After signing up for the free membership, the victims would be offered different member packages ranging from $10 to a few thousand dollars for the job, with varying amounts of commission paid per task. Thereafter, the victims were told to pay the membership fees via cryptocurrency or bank transfers to unknown individuals before they could start performing the job to earn commissions. In most cases, the victims would be convinced that it was a legitimate job as they would receive commissions and profit during the early stage of their memberships. Victims would realise that they had been scammed when they did not receive further commissions or were unable to make withdrawals from their member accounts.
During the two-day operation, officers from the Commercial Affairs Department and seven SPF Land Divisions mounted simultaneous island-wide operations and arrested the 16 men and three women. Preliminary investigations revealed that the bogus companies are believed to be running Ponzi-like schemes where the new job seekers’ money are used to pay the promised commissions to existing job holders. The 19 individuals are believed to have facilitated in the schemes by opening corporate and personal bank accounts, advertising and recruiting potential part-time job seekers, and fraudulently registering and supplying mobile phone lines. Some of them also allegedly rented out or sold their bank accounts to the scammers.
Police investigations are ongoing. The offence of cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code carries an imprisonment term of up to 10 years and a fine. The offence of receiving stolen property under Section 411 of the Penal Code carries an imprisonment term of up to 5 years, a fine, or with both. The offence of money laundering under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act carries an imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, a fine not exceeding $500,000, or both.
The Police would like to caution job seekers to be wary of job advertisements that promise the convenience of working from home and being paid a high salary for relatively simple job responsibilities. Legitimate businesses will not require job seekers to utilise their own bank accounts to receive money on the businesses’ behalf or to make upfront payments to secure the job offers and earn commissions. These acts are common ruses used by scammers to lure individuals into participating in their schemes or scams. To avoid being involved in money laundering activities, members of the public should always reject requests to use their personal bank accounts to receive and transfer money for others.
The Police would like to advise members of the public to adopt the following precautionary measures:
- Be wary of the use of foreign numbers while hiring for a Singapore office;
- Avoid making upfront payment to bank accounts belonging to unknown individuals;
- Always verify the authenticity of the calls or the caller’s intent with the official websites or sources. You may do so by contacting the companies who claim to be hiring; and
- Report and block the WhatsApp number via the in-platform reporting function.
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. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
13 October 2021 @ 3:50 PM