Series of 'China official' scams where victims transfer money using bitcoin machines prompts police alert

The series of scams comes hot on the heels of recent such cases, and after scam alert posters beside a bitcoin machine were torn down
PHOTO: Singapore Police Force

SINGAPORE - Do not fall for scammers who impersonate officials from China and ask victims to transfer money using bitcoin machines, said the police in a fresh alert on Saturday (April 27).

This comes hot on the heels of recent cases of such scams, and after scam alert posters beside a bitcoin machine were torn down, according to a police statement.

Police were alerted to the case of vandalism at Tampines One mall on April 18 and officers from Bedok Police Division investigated the matter. They found that a 45-year-old man was believed to have removed the posters from the wall beside the bitcoin machine.

During follow-up investigations, the man revealed that he received a call from someone purporting to be a foreign law enforcement officer.

The "officer" claimed that the man was under investigation for a transnational crime.

The man was told to transfer a total of $1,000 on two occasions to an account using the bitcoin machine at Tampines One.

He added that he was directed by the "officer" to remove and dispose of the scam alert posters next to the machine.

The police are continuing investigations into the case.

While the police were carrying out ground inquiries at Tampines One, officers managed to prevent a 32-year-old man from falling for the scam.

They also stopped a 49-year-old man from making further money transfers to the scammers.

These two men received a call from a scammer who identified himself as foreign law enforcement officer.

The men were told that their bank accounts were used in ongoing investigations related to human organ trafficking in China.

They were instructed to transfer money using the bitcoin machine for verification purposes.

While officers managed to prevent the 32-year-old man from transferring any money, the 49-year-old man was in the midst of doing so when officers stopped him.

However, he later told the police that he had already transferred $16,350.

The police advised the public to take the following precautions if they receive unsolicited calls requesting that they surrender money to avoid criminal investigations:

- Ignore such calls and the caller's instructions.

No government agency in Singapore will demand payment over the telephone or other social messaging platforms, such as WeChat or Facebook, or demand that you surrender cash to unnamed people.

They would also not ask for personal banking information, such as your Internet banking passwords.

Foreign residents who receive calls from people claiming to be police officers or government officials from your home country should call their embassy or high commission to verify the claims of the caller.

- Refrain from giving out personal information and bank details, whether on a website or to callers over the phone. Do not make any fund transfers on the instruction of such callers.

- Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. Do not be pressured by the caller to act impulsively.

The public can call the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg for advice.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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