He sold SingPass accounts to China syndicate
Man sold 293 SingPass accounts to Chinese syndicate
He spent thousands of hours on his computer so he could crack the passwords of 293 SingPass accounts.
All his victims had used their NRIC number as their password.
And James Sim Guan Liang, 39, had accessed their accounts by using random NRIC numbers as both the user ID and password.
He then sold their SingPass account credentials to a China-based syndicate, which used the information to apply for sham visas for foreigners to enter Singapore.
Some of them later committed crimes here.
The administrative assistant, who faced 886 charges, most of them under the Computer Misuse Act, yesterday pleaded guilty to 73 charges. The rest will be taken into consideration for sentencing.
Court papers said Sim's involvement in identity trafficking began in 2006, when he got to know a Chinese national, whom he knew only as Lemon, via a social networking website.
During a supper outing with Lemon and others, Sim asked whether anyone knew how to earn money.
Lemon later told Sim privately that all he had to do was hand over his NRIC for a day.
Sim initially refused, out of fear that he would get into trouble.
Lemon persisted and Sim eventually agreed.
Over several occasions, he handed over his NRIC to Lemon and was paid $100 each time.
When Sim asked Lemon why he wanted his NRIC, Lemon said it was used to "sponsor" visa applications for Chinese nationals who wanted to come to Singapore.
Sim let Lemon use his NRIC repeatedly over the next two years.
The visa application procedure was later changed to an e-service on the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website that required a person's SingPass credentials instead of the submission of physical NRICs.
This e-service allows a Singaporean or a Permanent Resident to use his SingPass to apply for a visa on behalf of a foreigner wanting to enter Singapore, at a cost of $30.
When Sim's NRIC number was rejected and could no longer be used, Lemon asked Sim if he had the SingPass credentials of other people.
Sim realised users were allowed to use their NRIC numbers as their passwords.
So he experimented to see if he could break into people's accounts by keying in a random NRIC number into both the user id and password fields.
Between January and May 2011, he made tens of thousands of attempts in his Toa Payoh home and harvested 293 accounts.
Every time he succeeded, he would log into different government websites, such as the Central Provident Fund Board and Media Development Authority.
He would get the account holder's personal particulars, such as the name and address, as these were required for visa applications.
He then e-mailed the 293 account credentials to Lemon in five batches, earning $300 each time.
From these, 123 accounts were used to sponsor sham visa applications through the e-service and 20 Chinese nationals successfully entered Singapore.
Three were arrested and two jailed between six weeks and nine months for various offences, such as overstaying and harassment on behalf of an unlicensed money lender.
The visa scam was discovered by ICA officers, who found it fishy that many visa applications were made in China using the same credit card.
They later found that a common IP address was used to access these accounts - Sim's.
Sim is expected back in court on Feb 26.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of SingPass accounts used to sponsor sham visa applications through the e-service