Singapore

Chinese national in Singapore loses $170,000 after falling for impersonation scam

A Chinese national lost $170,000 in a Chinese official impersonation scam shortly after arriving in Singapore last month.

Wanting to be known only as Mr Hong, the 30-year-old told the media in a conference call organised by the police yesterday that he had come here to begin his new job in the information technology sector.

The money he lost was from his parents and his own savings.

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Hong said he received a phone call from a local number on Dec 12 from someone claiming to be from DBS Bank. The caller told Mr Hong that he owed the bank money.

Confused, Mr Hong told the caller he did not have a DBS account. But the man told him someone had impersonated him and made transactions in China.

The caller transferred Mr Hong to another person, who claimed to be from Interpol.

The second person then explained to Mr Hong that he was involved in a money laundering scheme, and, to prove his innocence, Mr Hong had to transfer all his money to a bank account for investigations.

Said Mr Hong: "The caller spoke in a very stern voice, which made me feel nervous. They then made me believe they wanted to help me."

Mr Hong was told to meet a woman at the entrance of a local swimming complex, where she handed him documents to prove the investigation was real.

Mr Hong said she had long hair, was in her twenties and wore a face mask.

The documents turned out to be fake.

To prevent him from contacting the authorities, he was told the case was a "Category 1 national secret" punishable by imprisonment.

Mr Hong transferred $170,000 in 10 transactions to three accounts. He was even advised to borrow money to help him in court.

This made him suspicious and he finally called the police on Jan 3. A police spokesman said the Commercial Affairs Department is investigating the case.

The number of Chinese official impersonation scams here grew from 188 cases in 2017 to 401 cases between January and November last year.

The Straits Times reported that the victims lost at least $12.8 million in 2017 and $18.8 million between January and November last year.

The police advised members of the public to ignore calls from suspicious callers and said government agencies will never request for personal details or the transfer of money over the phone.

Mr Hong cried as he said his family was still unaware about the incident.

He said: "I am worried my parents are old and can't bear such bad news."

COURT & CRIME