Aggressive tactics by 'fund-raisers' under probe

Aggressive tactics by 'fund-raisers' under probe

A Facebook video showing a group of young men claiming to be police officers and forcefully asking for donations at Punggol MRT station caused a stir on Monday night.

The video - taken by netizen Sam Lim, who witnessed it - was shared almost 2,000 times overnight as netizens took to the comments section to describe their own encounters with such individuals.

The next day, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) issued a statement on their Facebook page assuring the public they were looking into reports about these cases.

Madam L. K. Lee, a 55-year-old finance manager, alerted The Straits Times to an incident in which two young men approached her daughter at Choa Chu Kang MRT station on Tuesday, claiming to be raising funds for former offenders.

The men asked for a $10 donation and made the 18-year-old open her wallet when she insisted that she did not have enough money.

After they discovered a $10 note in her wallet, she let them have it as she felt uncomfortable. When Madam Lee's daughter came across Mr Lim's video, she identified one of the men as also having approached her.

Another caller, Madam S. H. Koh, a 52-year-old housewife, said her daughter had a similar experience on March 31, when three supposed former offenders approached the 16-year-old and her friends at a bus stop outside Clementi Mall, asking for a $20 donation.

The girls were spooked into complying as the men were persistent and standing very near them.

"I filed a police report because I felt it was the right thing to do, especially since this has happened to other children," Madam Koh said.

According to Facebook posts and comments on the SPF's advisory, key locations for suspected scammers include Clementi MRT station, Punggol interchange and Novena MRT station.

The Straits Times found no sign of unlicensed solicitation at Clementi MRT station during lunchtime yesterday.

But Mr Benedict Tham, a 39-year-old real-estate agent, said he had seen it take place in the evenings after work and school.

Two weeks ago, the Clementi resident was approached by two men claiming to be former convicts but when he asked to see their licence, they walked away.

"I think this is why they target students, because they are usually less cautious and wary," he added.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng said: "We will inform Jurong-Clementi Town Council property officers, staff and councillors to be on the lookout and ready to expose such unlawful acts."

Ms Natasha Young, a 19-year-old student who carries out street surveys for a consultancy firm part-time, said: "These cases make people sceptical of survey-takers and legitimate fund-raising activities because they immediately assume we are ill-intentioned. But really, we just want to do our job."

The SPF listed a series of steps members of the public can take if they are confronted by people seeking donations, like requesting the person's Collector's Certificate of Authority or referring to the list of approved fund-raising events on their website.

The Office of the Commissioner of Charities said: "At no time should anyone feel pressured to give money if they are unsure."

This article was first published on Apr 08, 2017.
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