Police investigating 55 people for online scams involving over $230,000

SINGAPORE - The police are stepping up its efforts to clamp down on the various online scams plaguing Singapore at present, with over fifty people brought in for questioning.

In a statement on Friday (July 29), the police revealed that 55 individuals, comprising 27 men and 28 women, are assisting in investigations after a three-day operation from July 25 to July 27.

The suspects, aged between 17 and 72, are believed to be involved in more than 150 online scams, with transactions exceeding $230,000.

Most of the suspects are believed to have posed as online sellers who scammed victims into buying products such as entrance tickets to local attractions, vouchers, mobile phones and hotel room bookings. They failed to deliver the products after receiving payment for them.

Some of the other suspects are believed to have acted as "money mules" who received and transferred illegal funds on behalf of criminal syndicates.

The police said that the suspects are being investigated for cheating or money laundering. Those found guilty of cheating may be fined and jailed for a maximum of 10 years. Meanwhile, those convicted of money laundering may be sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined up to $500,000.

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According to the police, there were 2,173 reports of cheating cases involving e-commerce in 2015, of which three out of four were made by people who had used online community marketplaces.

This represented a 30 per cent increase from the year before, when 1,665 cases of online cheating were reported.

The police advised members of the public to exercise caution when making online transactions by being clear about the dispute resolution safeguards offered by the online site.

They also urged consumers making transactions online to pay only on delivery or use payment platforms with established refund policies, and reject requests by others for personal information like bank account details or mobile phone numbers.

Various online scams have been highlighted in the media in recent months. It was previously reported that from January to May this year, a total of $623,500 had been lost to scams in which victims make advance payments for products such as electronic gadgets, which then fail to arrive.

Another widespread online scam are the credit-for-sex cases, in which swindlers convince their victims, mostly men, to buy them items such as transfer cards or online shopping credits, in exchange for sexual services which never materialise.

The police stressed that it takes a serious view against any person involved in scams, whether knowingly or unknowingly. They added that any bank accounts found to be used to receive money from illegal sources would be frozen for investigation purposes.