18 arrested, 21 under probe over government officials impersonation scam

SINGAPORE – The police arrested 18 people and are investigating 21 others for suspected involvement in a government officials impersonation scam.

They are aged between 16 and 55.

This comes after an islandwide anti-scam enforcement operation between Oct 21 and Nov 6, the police said on Tuesday.

The police received a report on Oct 21 about a victim who lost more than $90,000 through a government officials impersonation scam.

They investigated and found that the amount had been withdrawn from ATMs that same day after it went through a complex network of bank accounts.

The day before, on Oct 20, the male victim received a call from a woman who claimed to be from DBS Bank. She alleged that someone tried to make three bank transfers from the victim’s DBS account to a UOB account.

The scammer claimed that she was calling to verify the transfers. When the victim confirmed that he had not authorised any transfers, the scammer said the matter would be referred to the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The victim was then contacted separately by four other scammers, all claiming to be police officers.

They said he was being investigated as a “suspect” in a money laundering case after $80,000 was transferred to his bank account, and his credit card was found on another suspect who had been arrested.

One of the scammers had sent him a fake police warrant card through WhatsApp.

Another scammer, who claimed to be an investigation officer, also sent two false letters bearing the Singapore Police Force logo and said the victim had to open an “OCBC safety account” as part of investigations.

The victim was then told to transfer money to this “safety account” so that the police could track the money.

Believing that the “safety account” belonged to him, the victim transferred more than $90,000 to it.

After the victim lodged a police report, officers from the Commercial Affairs Department’s Anti-Scam Command investigated, and that led to the islandwide operation.

Twelve suspects were arrested for suspected involvement in selling and renting their bank accounts by giving up bank cards and Internet banking credentials to criminal syndicates. Meanwhile, 21 others are assisting with investigations.

Five people have been charged so far.

They sold or helped to sell bank accounts to a criminal syndicate, and aided the syndicate to withdraw money from fraudulently obtained accounts. They also assisted the syndicate to activate fraudulently obtained bank cards and registered the corresponding banking accounts.

At least five mobile phones, more than 90 SIM cards, about 80 bank cards and bank correspondences were seized.

A sixth person will be charged as well.