Singapore

Man loses over $50,000 in investment scam

He is one of more than 200 victims who found out they had fallen prey to scams in police operation

Mr Lin (not his real name) was not familiar with investments. But last December, a woman he had befriended on Facebook encouraged him to open a trading account and introduced him to a broker. He trusted her and since Jan 1, on two occasions, he invested much of his life savings into the account.

"I wanted to earn a little more due to the pandemic," said Mr Lin, who works in the food and beverage industry.

Two weeks later, he was told his trades had failed and he owed the broker around $53,000.

"I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat," Mr Lin said. "These are savings that I've saved bit by bit, from working over the years."

Last Thursday, the Singapore Police Force's Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) contacted him.

That was when he learnt that the bank account of the broker he had transferred almost $50,000 to was under investigation for being a suspected investment scam.

Mr Lin was one of over 200 victims who found out that they had fallen prey to scams in the course of an ASC operation.

During a three-day operation from last Wednesday to Friday, officers from the ASC worked with banks to intervene in scams involving fake gambling platforms and investments.

They traced fund transfers of suspicious accounts, contacted victims who made the transactions, and advised them to stop any further transfers.

From 2019 to last year, investment scams increased by 126 per cent to 1,102 cases, with victims losing at least $69.5 million. Fake gambling platform scams also increased by 1,800 per cent to 299 cases last year from a year before, with losses totalling $15.4 million.

Scammers also often lure victims through online dating platforms. Investment scam victims are often given an initial "profit" to entice them into committing larger amounts, which are deposited into the scammers' accounts. The scammers then become uncontactable.

In fake gambling platform scams, victims are often convinced that the online betting platforms introduced have loopholes that would allow them to reap easy profits.

Currently, 76 men and 22 women, aged between 17 and 59, are being investigated for suspected involvement in 359 investment and fake gambling platform scams.

The suspects allegedly helped the syndicates by opening bank accounts or transferring monies for the syndicate.

Those convicted of cheating can be fined and jailed for up to 10 years, and those involved in money laundering can be fined up to $500,000 and jailed for up to 10 years.

Victims of fake gambling platform scams may also be charged under the Remote Gambling Act. They can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months.

COURT & CRIME