Police have arrested six men and 12 women aged between 16 and 47 for their involvement in an ongoing Multiple Payment Online Purchase (MPOP) scam.
The scam involves victims responding to online advertisements on sale of items at attractive prices.
The scammer would usually require the victim to make payment via a bank transfer or remittance. Where bank transfers are made, the scammers use local bank accounts held by money mules. These money mules assist to transfer the proceeds of crime from the mule's bank accounts to the scammers.
The scammers usually recruit potential mules through social network sites and adopt various guises to appeal to them, such as by claiming to offer a business opportunity for the mule to earn a percentage commission by remitting monies, or to seek a romantic relationship and coaxing the mules to remit funds in the name of love.
After the payment has been made by the victim to the mule's account, the item would not be delivered. The scammer would ask for further payments, citing reasons like requiring the balance payment, insurance fees, customs fees, etc.
Investigations against the suspects are on-going.
If found guilty of cheating, each suspect faces imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine.
They could also be liable for the offence of Carrying on a Remittance Business Without a License, which carries a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 for every day during which the offence continues after conviction.
Police advise members of the public to be aware of this scam and to adopt the following measures:
- Do business with those you know and trust. Be sure you know who the company or person is and where they are physically located. Businesses operating in cyberspace may be located in another part of the world. Resolving problems with someone unfamiliar may be more complicated in cross-border transactions.
- Understand the offer. Look carefully at the information about the goods and ask for more information when required. A legitimate business would gladly provide it. Ensure that you know what is being sold, the total price, the delivery date, the return, cancellation policy and the terms of any guarantee. Do not be lured by the discount to purchase the goods.
- Never give your bank account numbers, credit card numbers and personal information to anyone you don't know or have not checked out. Do not provide information that is not necessary to make the purchase.
- Check out the track record of the company/seller. Ask the company/seller for their list of clients/customers. Make enquiries with the clients/customers on the background and services provided by the company/seller. Be wary that fraud artists can appear and disappear especially in cyberspace, so the lack of a complaint record is no guarantee of legitimacy.