FEATURES

13 February 2019

Crime Files: Internet Love Scam Syndicate

SPF Logo

By: Hadi Hafidz (Photos: Commercial Affairs Department)

The birth of the Internet revolutionised the way people communicate and share information across the globe. Although the Internet does allow unlimited access to the rest of the world while protecting users’ privacy, the Internet has also unknowingly become a breeding ground for online crimes and scams to fester. In this issue of Crime Files, we zoom in on the joint collaboration between the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) officers and their counterparts from the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) which resulted in one of the largest number of arrests linked to an Internet love scam syndicate.

In the first half of 2017, a total of 344 Internet love scam cases were reported, compared to 286 cases reported within the same period of the year in 2018. Although there was a significant decline, the figures showed that a large number of people were still falling prey to such love scams.

Typical of Internet love scam cases, scammers tend to lure their victims by using pseudo identities to express romantic interest to the latter. They lend a listening ear and share stories about their lives, gradually leading the victims to believe that they are in an actual relationship. When the scammers have sensed that they have won the trust of their targets, they then make their moves by sharing fictitious stories about them needing financial assistance.

Tricked into believing the genuineness of their ‘lover’, these victims eventually agree to help and transfer money to a given account number. Upon receiving the money, the scammers would then ‘disappear’ and cease all forms of communication with the victims.

CAD photo

Significance in Collaboration

RMP and the HKPF to fight these scam syndicates. Through the close sharing of information, they have managed to crackdown several of such crimes. In October 2018, their collaborative efforts paid off once again when the CAD received information from the RMP about a syndicate operating in Malaysia. The syndicate is believed to be responsible for a string of 146 cases reported across three countries, locally in Malaysia, and those in Singapore and Hong Kong.

“After analysing the information, we flew to Kuala Lumpur on a short notice and worked very closely with the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of the RMP to quickly dovetail our raid operation plans,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Ho Ban Hsiung, CAD’s Transnational Fraud Branch Officer.

After countless hours of putting the raid operation plans together, officers from the SPF, the RMP and the HKPF ambushed several apartments in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The raid operation proved to be one of the largest love scam syndicate related arrests to date. 19 people, including 15 Malaysian women, one Malaysian man, two Nigerian men and one woman from China, were arrested from the raid which took place from 19 October to 21 October 2018. They are currently under investigations.

 

Several telecommunication devices, laptops and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards were also seized during the raids. Based on the investigation findings, almost S$19 million had been scammed from the Internet love scam victims.

 

As a result of the joint operations, eight of the cases (which saw scammers amassing S$450,000) reported in Singapore were solved. Investigations also revealed that two Malaysian women working in Singapore were believed to have helped transfer money linked to the cases. They are currently assisting the SPF in further investigations. Those found guilty and charged under the offence of cheating will be punished with an imprisonment term that could go up to 10 years and shall also be liable to a fine.

As the CAD continues to tackle such syndicates, members of the public are also advised to take

precautionary measures.

 

“To avoid falling prey to these scams, the Police advise members of the public to be careful when befriending strangers online. They should also be wary when being asked to send money to people whom they do not know,” shared Superintendent of Police Chew Jingwei, CAD’s Head of Syndicated Fraud Department.

 

The CAD remains undeterred by transnational crimes and will continue to work with its foreign counterparts to achieve its mission of safeguarding Singapore’s integrity as a world-class financial and commercial centre through vigilant and professional enforcement of the laws.

 

For more information on scams, members of the public can visit scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722- 6 6 88.

 

Anyone with information on such scams may call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000

or submit information online via http://www.police.gov.sg.iwitness

 


Last Updated on 13 February 2019