Cyber victims seldom meet fraudsters

Cyber victims seldom meet fraudsters

Her request - to get to know you as a friend - may seem innocent, too.

But the police warn that this could be one of the many ploys overseas syndicates use to select fresh targets to use as money mules.

In an e-mail reply on Monday, the police told The New Paper: "The fraudsters tailor their communication and profiles to appeal to the targets. They may claim to have business dealings in Singapore, have lived or worked in Singapore, or wish to migrate and set up a family in Singapore."

THE COST

In the world of cybercrime, where money mules are often used to receive and remit stolen money, the cost to society can be immense.

In a 2008 report, data protection company McAfee said data theft from cybercrime may have cost businesses as much as "US$1 trillion globally in lost intellectual property and expenditures for repairing the damage".

Mr James Pang, assistant director of Interpol's digital crime investigative support sub-directorate, gave a similar assessment at a speech at the NEC Innovative Solutions Fair 2014.

He cited a 2013 Norton report, which said that cybercrimes cost consumers US$113 billion (S$140 billion).

Other known methods used by syndicates include recruiting Singapore representatives to set up new bank accounts or using unsuspecting real estate and law firms.

The fraudsters also target multiple victims at the same time.

ELUSIVE AND EVASIVE

Hiding behind vague online identities, the syndicate members normally pose as Caucasian men residing outside Singapore.

Subsequent communication will usually be in the form of e-mails, online chats or even phone calls, said the police. Victims rarely get to meet the fraudsters. The money mules, on the other hand, are usually Singaporeans earning a monthly income of less than $3,000.

The jobs they hold include security guard, businessman and even part-time lecturer.

About 60 per cent of them are males and more than half are aged between 40 and 60 years old.

The amount transferred by money mules, who get a commission for their role, range from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million dollars per transaction, police said.

One case involved $1.25 million and the mule kept $10,451. Odd-job labourer Ngiam Kok Min was jailed for 54 months in Oct 2012.

The police spokesman added: "As a result, the true masterminds not only evade detection, they could also enjoy their ill-gotten proceeds and possibly use these funds to finance and perpetuate future criminal activities."

BE ON THE LOOKOUT

The police have advised the public not to divulge personal banking details to strangers or agree to receive money from unknown sources.

When a suspiciously large amount of money is wired to your bank account, lodge a police report and inform your bank immediately.

Anyone convicted of dishonestly receiving stolen money can be jailed up to five years, or fined, or both.


This article was first published on July 2, 2014.
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