Between December 2021 and February 2022, a man impersonated an official from the “Chinese Judicial Investigation Department” and scammed a 75-year-old woman in Singapore of S$1 million dollars.
He had spoken to the victim via video calls and managed to obtain her one-time-passwords (OTPs) sent to her via SingPass and United Overseas Bank (UOB).
He then transferred the victim’s life savings from her Central Provident Fund (CPF) account to her UOB account, before distributing the funds to various other bank accounts.
Dickson Jong Chee Siang, 29, a Malaysian national, was sentenced to nine months’ jail on Jan. 12, for two charges of cheating and one charge of abetment of unauthorised access to computer material.
In December 2021, Jong was approached by a woman via Facebook.
The woman told him that he could earn quick cash by selling his bank accounts for trading in cryptocurrency.
She told him that he could earn S$600 for selling his bank account.
She added that the transactions in the sold accounts would be quite large, and he could earn a commission of 0.001 per cent of the total earnings from the accounts at the end of each month.
He opened a bank account at Standard Chartered Bank under his name, but relinquished control of the account to the woman and another unknown female.
He earned S$1,800 from selling this and another two bank accounts to the scammers.
In January 2022, the woman told Jong that he could earn S$100 per account by getting 10 other people to sell their bank accounts.
He roped in a 24-year-old acquaintance and fellow Malaysian Lin Chien Wei into his scheme.
Lin then handed over his OCBC ATM card and internet banking details.
On Dec. 9, 2021, the victim received multiple phone calls from multiple persons claiming to be from the “Chinese Judicial Investigation Department”.
Over the phone calls, the victim was informed that her identity had been misused in China, and that she needed to assist in the investigations.
The persons ensured that the victim was contactable by instructing her to send them messages every morning, afternoon and evening.
They also instructed her to provide her personal details, including her NRIC and home address, which she complied with.
Later that month, she had received letters bearing the letterheads of the Singapore Police Force (SPC), the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and the State Courts.
The letters stated that the victim was suspected of illegally opening a Chinese bank account and was required to cooperate with the Chinese Judicial Investigation Department.
In January 2022, the victim received a package containing a mobile phone.
She was then contacted by someone who instructed her to use a video-conferencing application pre-installed on the mobile phone.
She engaged in multiple video calls with various persons, during which she was instructed to position her phone camera towards her personal mobile phone.
In doing so, the scammers were able to obtain the OTPs sent from Singpass and UOB.
Unbeknownst to the victim, a sum of S$1 million, which constituted the victim’s life savings, was transferred from the victim’s CPF account to her UOB bank account on Jan. 18, 2022.
Between Jan. 28, 2022 and Feb. 3, 2022, 20 transfers of S$50,000 each, totalling S$1 million, were transferred from the victim’s UOB bank account to other bank accounts.
Police trace funds
Through investigations, the police traced one of the bank accounts that had received the money to Lin, who was able to provide the police with a link back to Jong.
Jong was then arrested on Feb. 23, 2022.
In total, criminal proceeds amounting to S$499,999.98 were received in Lin’s account.
Of this amount, only S$249,999.98 was traceable to the victim’s bank account.
The OCBC account was used by unknown third parties to receive and make transfers.
The sums of money were funnelled from the victim’s account through other money mules’ accounts and ended up in Lin’s account.
Jong and Lin did not have any control of the OCBC account nor any knowledge of the transactions occurring in the said account.
The OCBC account was frozen pursuant to investigations.
However, the vast majority of the monies in the OCBC account have been transferred out and only a balance of S$504.11 remained.
Deputy public prosecutor Tan Hsiao Tien sought seven to nine months’ imprisonment for Jong.
He stated that such cases where victims were scammed into transferring monies to other bank accounts have been increasing at an alarming rate – both in terms of sheer volume, and amount cheated.
This might potentially compromise Singapore’s reputation as an internationally respected financial hub, DPP Tan remarked, adding that harsher sentences should be given out as general deterrence for such crimes.
Lin’s case is pending.
In a previous interview, the victim’s husband said his wife’s life savings were accumulated over 50 years but were wiped out in a few days.
Top image from iStock & Shin Min Daily News