The Singapore Consulate-General in Shanghai would like to alert Singaporeans to the recent scams that we have come across in the Yangtze Delta region. In one particular case, a Singaporean who resided in Shanghai for many years was swindled over RMB 4 million by phone scammers. We hope that the following advisory, while not all-encompassing, will alert you to some of the common scams in the Yangtze Delta region and that you will take the necessary precautions should you encounter one:
1. “Please Hold the Line for the Police”
The victim was contacted by a local courier company informing him that a parcel addressed to him had contained several fraudulent passports and the company had referred the case to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) for investigation. [Note: The first contact may not always be a courier company and it could a bank, mobile service provider or other general service providers]. The caller would then transfer the call to the PSB where the victim was informed that he was under investigation for money laundering. The victim was then directed to an fictitious PSB website displaying his personal particulars and photo along with an arrest warrant. The PSB then told the victim that in order to clear his name, he must provide personal information including bank account information and transfer sums of money into a “Police account” to assist with the investigation. The victim was also warned not to disclose the ongoing investigation to anyone or he would be further charged with obstruction of justice. In that case, the PSB would not be able to help clear his name without going through prosecution. In one particular scenario, a victim was also tricked into installing software that allows the “police” to control his computer remotely. The PSB would tell the victim that they are a special investigation team and the victim should only talk to them and there was no need for him to report to a police station in person. During the phone calls, the victim could hear background sounds that serve to reinforce the legitimacy of the scammer such as sirens of police cars, someone calling the scammer by his official title etc.
2. “Mimicking Phone Numbers”
The victim was contacted by someone claiming to be the police and was told that his bank account was involved with money laundering. The victim was told that he could verify the incoming call by checking the numbers online or calling 114 (the Telephone Enquiries Hotline) so as to build trust. The victim then confirmed that the phone numbers of the incoming call were indeed that of the PSB. The victim then followed the caller’s instructions to transfer money or provide details of their bank accounts. However, the display numbers were actually forged by software programmes.
3. Funds transfer
The caller would inform the victim that his bank account was subject to “great risks” and would advise the victim to transfer all the funds into a “safe account”. The caller would:
(1) Ask the victim to effect the transfer through the nearest ATM / bank as soon as possible;
(2) ask the victim to stay on the line at all times;
(3) Ask the victim to stay away from the bank staff or bank security guards as they had leaked the information.
Some Prevention Tips:
Telephone scams are increasing in variety and sophistication. To help Singaporeans avoid the risks, here are some tips which one should keep in mind. These are by no means exhaustive.
1. Do not reveal your personal particulars or bank account information over the phone.
2. Do not trust callers who tell you that your “bank account / credit card account is not safe”, “the bank account is involved in crime”, etc. If you are concerned about your bank accounts, it is best to contact your bank or the local authorities directly.
3. The Police do not provide a “safe account” and will not ask you to transfer funds to the “safe account”. They also do not carry out investigations over telephone.
4. Be calm when you encounter such phone scams. Ask the caller to wait while you proceed to the nearest police station to inquire about the situation in person.
News article regarding these scams:
Expats Urged To Be Alert As Telecom Scams Rise – Shanghai Daily
Scam victim says so long to savings – Shanghai Daily
Scams in popular tourists sites
1. “Tea Ceremony”
The victim was approached and invited for a drink at a teahouse nearby for a number of reasons including to “practice English”. Afterwards, the victim was presented with an exorbitant bill and was not permitted to leave the premises until payment was made.
2. Massage / Bar Tab Scam
Similar to the “Tea Ceremony” scam, the victim was approached by XXX with the promise of cheap massages or cheap liquor at a bar. The victim was presented with a vastly inflated bill when it was time to settle the bill. The owner threatened the victim with physical violence and forced the victim to make payment, often by credit card, before allowing the victim to leave the premise. In some cases, the victim was followed / escorted back to their hotel to ensure that he does not go to the police station.
3. “Black Taxi”
These taxis, especially at airports, may claim that the meter is spoilt or that they are a limousine and charge higher fares.
Some Prevention Tips:
1. Avoid isolated, unfamiliar places or places with high incidence of crime.
2. Do not order until you are clear on the cost.
3. Do not follow strangers who approach you with an offer or want to take you somewhere.
4. Do not carry too much cash or other valuables.
5. Set a spending limit for your credit card for overseas travel.
6. If you are being forced to pay, proceed straight to the nearest Police station to make a police report and contact your credit card company immediately after you leave the premise. Do try to remember the location of the teahouse/bar/massage parlour by taking a photo of the shop front, street sign or landmark as this is an important information that could help the police.
7. Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered ‘taxis’ and insist on paying by the meter. Ask the drive for a receipt (fapiao). With the taxi number on the fapiao, you may lodge a complaint with the police and Taxi Company. To ensure that the driver does not drive off with your luggage, ask the driver to remove your bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay.
8. If you are followed / escorted back to your hotel, inform your hotel security immediately. You may also check-out and change to another hotel with security features.
Important Numbers to Note:
Shanghai Call Centre
(Free public services to foreigners including general information and emergency translation services etc.)
(For Singaporeans who require urgent consular assistance after office hours)
+86 1380 1949 439
. . . . .
Singapore Consulate-General in Shanghai
(11 March 2016)