SINGAPORE - Police arrested 26 men and 18 women, aged between 18 and 54, in a three-day island-wide operation conducted from Tue (April 7) to Thurs (April 9). The 44 persons, which include six foreigners, were suspected of 150 cheating cases, which included online purchase scams. The victims were cheated of more than $150,000 in total, according to a statement from the police.
The number of people who had fallen for online purchase scams more than doubled in 2014 from the previous year, from 510 cases in 2013 to 1,659 cases in 2014.
According to police, victims typically responded to online advertisements on the sale of items at attractive prices. They had communicated with the sellers over mobile messaging platforms or emails and were convinced by the scammers to make advanced payments for the delivery of the items.
In most cases, victims were instructed to make bank transfers to a local bank account. However, the goods were not delivered as promised even after the victims made the payments. In some cases, victims were asked for further payments for customs duties, delivery charges and taxes.
Director of Commercial Affairs Department, Mr Tan Boon Gin, said: "Victims are lulled into a false sense of security because they are asked to make payment to a Singapore bank account, not knowing that the funds will be transferred overseas immediately after payment."
Investigations against the persons are on-going.
The offence of Cheating carries a punishment of imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine. The suspects may also be investigated for money laundering offences under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, which carry a punishment of imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000.