POLICE have arrested nine people from a renovation company who are suspected of having passed themselves off as government representatives to get business.
The seven men and two women are believed to have entered homes by pretending to be from the Housing Board, town councils and other government agencies.
They would then try to get home owners to agree to renovation or repair works.
In response to queries, the police said they are investigating 90 reports in relation to these suspects.
The majority of the reports involved elderly victims.
One such victim, a 62-year-old retiree who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, was alone in his three-room flat in Race Course Road when a contractor came knocking early last year.
The contractor, from Shinden General Contractor, allegedly claimed to be from the HDB and had an official-looking pass.
At the time, the HDB was indeed doing renovation work for toilets in that block.
"We were waiting for the HDB contractor to come, so we didn't know that person was not from the HDB," said Mr Lim's niece, a 26-year-old housewife who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan.
She lives in the flat with her husband, their two children, her brother and Mr Lim.
The contractor even produced a stack of receipts to show that other residents had already paid for such work.
Mr Lim, who speaks mainly Hokkien, was eventually persuaded by the Mandarin-speaking contractor to pay $300 to patch the toilet ceiling.
The patching was carried out, and it was only later that the family realised it was not part of the official HDB work.
When they tried to get their money back, the contractor refused to give it to them.
Said Mrs Tan: "It's a big amount to us."
The Straits Times understands that the company has had many names, including Second Team General Contractor, Teamwork Renovation, Homework General Contractor and - most recently - Upgrading General Contractor.
The suspects were arrested in an operation by officers from Tanglin Police Division on Jan 28.
Receipt books, company passes and mobile phones were seized.
Anyone found guilty of "cheating by personation" - cheating by pretending to be someone they are not - may be jailed for up to five years and/or fined.
In a joint statement, the police and the HDB cautioned the public against being taken in by bogus contractors, who might use pressure tactics such as claiming the HDB will take action if the works are not done.
Home owners should ask for identification documents if a contractor claims to be appointed by the HDB.
If in doubt, they can call the HDB branch service line on 1800-225-5432 to verify a contractor's visit.
This article was first published on Feb 12, 2015.
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