SINGAPORE: 13 men and six women aged between 16 and 50, are currently under investigation for their suspected involvement in the recent variant of impersonation scam using compromised WhatsApp accounts.
This investigation follows an island-wide anti-scam enforcement operation conducted from 15 to 24 November.
They are allegedly involved in a sophisticated scheme that exploited fake ‘WhatsApp Web’ phishing websites.”
The enforcement operation, led by officers from the Commercial Affairs Department, seven Police Land Divisions, and the Police Intelligence Department, saw simultaneous island-wide raids resulting in the arrest of 19 individuals in total.
“Preliminary investigations revealed that the 19 persons had allegedly facilitated the scam cases by relinquishing their bank accounts, Internet banking credentials and/or disclosing Singpass credentials, either for monetary gains between $200 and $3,400 or for loans which they did not eventually receive,” the police said in a statement on 26 Nov.
WhatsApp impersonation scam through “WhatsApp Web” phishing
Since Nov 2023, the police have reported a surge in social media impersonation scams, with at least 237 victims falling prey to such schemes, amounting to a staggering total loss of S$606,000.
Specifically tied to this WhatsApp variant, 93 victims have been identified, with losses reaching at least $176,000, the police said.
Typically, the scammers used compromised WhatsApp accounts to contact victims’ families, friends, or associates, fabricating urgent needs for monetary assistance under various pretexts, such as medical emergencies or exceeding transfer limits.
Victims, unsuspecting of the scam, transferred money to unfamiliar bank accounts or PayNow numbers, believing they were aiding their compromised contacts.
It was only after contacting their friends or family that they discovered the ruse, realizing they had been duped.
The police underscore the severity of the charges the suspects face, including acquiring benefits from criminal conduct, cheating by deceiving banks into opening unauthorized accounts, and various offenses under the Computer Misuse Act.
These charges carry significant penalties, including imprisonment terms of up to 10 years, fines of up to $500,000, or both.
The investigations are ongoing, and the authorities emphasize their commitment to tracking down cybercriminals responsible for social media impersonation scams.
The public is urged to remain vigilant and reject seemingly lucrative opportunities that involve the use of personal information for financial transactions.
The police sternly warn that individuals found linked to such crimes will be held accountable.
For assistance regarding scams, contact the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-722-6688, or visit https://www.scamalert.sg/.
If you have information about such scams, you can reach the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit details online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.
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