Scam syndicate allegedly involved in ‘fake friend’ calls busted in Singapore-Malaysia police operation

Scam syndicate allegedly involved in 'fake friend' calls busted in Singapore-Malaysia police operation

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Royal Malaysia Police have dismantled a syndicate believed to be involved in “fake friend” call scams targeting Singaporeans. 

SPF said in a press release on Tuesday (Jan 23) that Malaysian police raided two apartments in Johor on Jan 16 and arrested five Malaysian men aged between 19 and 36.

Preliminary investigations revealed the syndicate started their scam operations last June and is believed to be responsible for more than 500 police reports made, with total losses of more than S$1.4 million (US$1 million).

The five men were extradited to Singapore on Tuesday and will be charged with conspiracy to cheat on Wednesday.

If found guilty, they can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined. 

From January to November 2023, more than 6,300 people fell prey to “fake friend” call scams, with total losses amounting to at least S$21.1 million.

SPF and Malaysian police have collaborated and shared information on these scams.

Mr David Chew, director of SPF’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), thanked the Johor police “for their strong support and commitment in tackling transnational crime syndicates”. 

“The Singapore Police Force has been working closely with the Royal Malaysia Police to detect and cripple these transnational scam syndicates who prey on our citizens,” he said. 

“We will continue to take tough action against individuals who perpetuate e-scams even if they are based overseas.”

Such “fake friend” scams typically involve scammers contacting victims through text messages or phone calls, pretending to be someone they know, and then asking for financial help. 

SPF reminded members of the public of the threat posed by such scams and to be wary of such calls. 

To prevent falling prey to such scams, the police advised members of the public to take steps such as installing the ScamShield mobile app, setting up transaction limits for internet baking and enabling two-factor authentication.

Individuals should check for scam signs with official sources – such as the Scam Alert website – and call the anti-scam helpline, as well as verify any requests with family members and friends through alternative means like physical meet-ups and video calls.