S$12 million lost by victims to scams involving bogus Chinese government officials between January and November

If someone calls or texts you claiming to be a Chinese government official from the China Ministry of Public Scrutiny or China Interpol, be warned: It’s most likely a scam.

The police said on Thursday (Dec 28) that at least 158 reports were lodged between January and November this year by members of the public who had been duped by scam artists.

To date, victims lost some S$12 million ($8.9 million) to these scams, said a police statement.

The modus operandi of the scam is as follows:

Step 1: Victims receive text messages or calls from strangers which employ caller-ID spoofing technology. This may make them look like they are from official government hotline numbers such as “110” or “999”.

Step 2: Victims were then told they had committed criminal offences and were required to help in investigations by doing either of the following in order to prove that the money they had was ‘clean’.

Victims were instructed to provide their internet banking details, One-Time Password for investigation purposes, or directed to a fake website of the Singapore Police Force or the China Police to key in their banking details.

Victims might also be shown fake warrants of arrest bearing their photographs on these fake websites. They were also asked to withdraw their money and to hand it to a stranger or to remit the money to bank accounts in China.

If that doesn’t set off alarm bells, demands by scam artists get more outrageous.

Victims were also instructed to send nude photos of themselves to prove that they did not have unique physical features that resembled the “criminals” the scam artists said they were looking for.

Step 3: Victims were then threatened with arrests by the “China authorities” or exposure of the photos if they did not do as they were told.

Two recent cases cited by the police involved Chinese students here aged 17 and 19.

The police advise members of the public to ignore such calls and the caller’s instructions.

“No government agency will instruct payment through a telephone call or other social messaging platforms (WeChat or Facebook); or ask you for personal banking information such as your internet banking passwords,” said the statement.

Foreigners who receive calls from anyone claiming to be from the police in their home country, should call their respective embassy or high commission to verify the claims.

For scam-related advice, go to www.scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam hotline at 1800-722-6688.