The Straits Times reported on June 30 that at least 277 people had lost 30.3 million Singapore dollars (nearly 22 million dollars) to China official impersonation scams since January this year.

Most scams follow the same approach.

Those targeted receive voice-recorded phone calls allegedly from government agencies, such as the Ministry of Health or the High Court. 

Victims follow the caller’s instructions to connect to scammers claiming to be police officers.

Victims are announced that they are under investigation for money laundering and other offenses. Therefore, they need to provide their personal and bank account information. Sometimes, scammers convince their targets to open bank accounts and transfer money to other accounts for “police investigations.”

The Straits Times reported a 75-year-old woman losing 1 million Singapore dollars (720,000 dollars) in China official impersonation scam.

She is a retiree, living with her husband and a domestic helper. 

Within eight weeks, she received three calls a day claiming to be from the Chinese Ministry of Health while her husband was at work. The scammers even delivered a mobile phone to her home to video call her on the video conferencing platform TeamLink. They informed her that her name had come up in a money laundering case in China, and they needed her support for investigations. They warned her that she should not tell her family members to protect them.

After giving scammers her details, she received hand-delivered letters purportedly from government agencies in Singapore, including the Monetary Authority, the Attorney-General Chambers, and the police.

She used to run a chemical trading company with her husband. She suffered a spinal fracture a few years ago, causing her to use a wheelchair until now.

She had transferred one million Singapore dollars to scammers. She only found she had been deceived when messaging the scammer after the police arrived, and she did not get a reply.

When asked if she thought it was strange that officials always asked her about her family members’ whereabouts and if she was alone at home, she said, “I thought they just wanted to protect my family.”

Police warn the public to be mindful of calls with the “+” prefix – indicating an overseas call. Moreover, they need to ignore unsolicited calls from those claiming to be law enforcement abroad.

According to annual police crime statistics, the number of China official impersonation scams increased from 442 in 2020 to 752 in 2021. The biggest sum lost in a single case was 6.2 million Singapore dollars (4.5 million dollars).

To prevent people from falling prey to increasing scams, Singapore launched five more anti-scam measures on June 2. These include an emergency self-service “kill switch,” letting customers rapidly freeze their bank accounts if they suspect of being related to fraud.

These measures will be implemented by October 31.

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