Thursday, January 27, 2022

Arrests made in Hong Kong, Singapore over international job scam syndicate

The scammers enticed potential job seekers with promises of highly paid jobs that allowed them to work from home.

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Forty-one suspects were arrested or investigated on Tuesday in Hong Kong and Singapore for their involvement in transnational job scams, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF).

Fourteen alleged “core members” of the scam syndicate, which operated from Hong Kong, were arrested by Hong Kong police between June 16 and June 18 over 134 cases of job scams in Hong Kong that involved HK$9 million (S$1.56 million).

Another 27 people were arrested by the Singapore police for their suspected involvement in job scams, reports CNA.

“Preliminary investigations indicated that they had allegedly facilitated in-bank transfers, funds withdrawals, or had relinquished their bank accounts to the scam syndicate,” said SPF who said it has seen a rise in the number of job scam cases in recent months.

“In these scams perpetuated by the Hong Kong syndicate, the syndicate posts advertisements on different social media platforms for jobs promising quick cash,” said SPF.

Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) director David Chew said the transnational crime syndicate targeted unsuspecting victims in “many jurisdictions”, including Singapore.

“In this instance, they enticed potential job seekers with promises of highly paid jobs that allowed them to work from home,” said Chew.

The job would require the victims – job seekers – to assist in “improving the sales of online platforms”, which included Taobao, HKTV Mall, and “some malicious mobile apps”.

The victims would then be told to make payments by transferring funds to different bank accounts. In return, they were promised reimbursements of the full sum, plus 5% to 12% commissions.

In the initial stages, the scammers reimbursed the victims and paid them full commissions to convince them that it was a legitimate job and to induce them to deposit increasingly larger sums of money to earn more commission.

“At this point, the scammers would promise commissions only after a certain number of tasks had been completed and would delay payments,” said SPF. “The victims would only realise they had fallen prey to a scam when they did not receive the subsequent reimbursements and commissions.”

The CAD, Police Intelligence Department and seven land divisions of the SPF, together with the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force, had “jointly crippled” the transnational job scam syndicate, said SPF.

Law enforcement managed to detect potential victims who could have received unsolicited texts, WhatsApp and Telegram messages from the alleged scammers.

Since May 20, the CAD’s Anti Scam Centre has contacted more than 660 potential victims to advise them of these job scams, said SPF.

CAD has also terminated more than 270 phone numbers and frozen more than 80 bank accounts suspected to be linked to these scams.

SPF says it will continue collaborating “closely” with its counterparts to detect and deter such syndicates, which exploit the anonymity of the internet.

Members of the public are advised that e-commerce platforms will never ask anyone to transfer money on the promise of a refund with a commission.

“If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Do not accept dubious job offers that offer lucrative returns for minimal effort,” said SPF.

People who are randomly invited into a messaging application group chat, which they suspect is promoting a scam, should report the group chat using the in-app function.

“If possible, always verify the authenticity of the job with the official websites or sources; and do not click on suspicious URLs or download applications from unknown sources,” SPF added.

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