Apparently, scams in Singapore have been so common that the country is now ranked 7th highest in Asia-Pacific for social media scams. The police have also put up multiple advertisements in public places to warn the public of scams and made special announcements in Mediacorp television programmes as well.
Here are some of Singapore’s worst and highest profile scams in history:
Credits for sex scam
Within the first five months of this year, various men have already been scammed approximately $1.25 million in sex scams. These “credits for sex” scams typically have women (or men pretending to be women) who belong in the same criminal syndicate befriending men on different social media platforms, such as WeChat, requesting for online shopping credits in exchange for sexual favours and dates.
Once a deal has been agreed on, the scammers will ask their victims to purchase cards via AXS machines together with images of the receipts. Afterwards, they will request for their victims to send their PIN numbers for their cards to specified email accounts.
Another version of a similar scam surfaced this year as well, whereby victims were asked to leave their ATM cards and PIN numbers in designated public locations before they can meet with these women. They were promised that their cards would be returned to them after a certain time.
Online shopping scam
44 men and women are currently being investigated for their involvement in an online shopping scam where they acted as online sellers of various electronic gadgets and helped receive and transfer funds to members of the syndicate. Buyers were cheated when they paid for their new items and failed to receive the products from these scammers, aged between 18 and 54. The victims were cheated of approximately $110,000 in total.
Property deal scam
Imagine meeting a person whom you thought was trustworthy and who was your friend. She would joke with you, hang out with you, go on holiday with you, and ask that you join her in buying and selling properties in the Orchard area to buyers from China all while promising you 30% returns. This scam, fronted by mastermind, Leong Lai Yee, lasted for 15 years and the elaborate lie only unravelled last year.
Investors who pumped money into the properties received returns ranging from 10% to 48% for a period of 4 to 8 months. They were also told that potential buyers will be required to fork out a 40% down payment for the property which will be forfeited if they back out. This down payment will then be used to pay investors.
In the past year, the scheme fell apart when Leong attempted to lure in new investors to pay former investors but payment were repeatedly delayed. On 18 May, Leong texted her investors saying that the money was all gone and that she was about to take her own life. 60 investors were duped and Leong reportedly owes them $60 million.
$400k debt scam
Tan Soy Kiang, a 70-year-old man in Singapore was cheated of $400,00 by two women who claimed that they worked for the Singapore government and that Tan owed the government a debt, which would result in Tan’s imprisonment if it wasn’t paid.
Ultimately, Tan worked two jobs day and night as a street cleaner and pump attendant respectively in order to repay his debt and was constantly hungry.
The poor man even had to borrow money from his neighbours and 73-year-old sister to feed himself. The 15-year-old lie was only uncovered when Tan’s niece, Pamela Lim, returned from Australia and he told to her about his supposed debt.
The two women confessed to their actions and will be fined and imprisoned for 10 years. Apart from that, they are also required to pay Mr Tan $500 a month.
Dan Chen, a man who works in an international school in Singapore, came to Mr Tan’s help and set up an online fundraising page on popular crowd-funding website, Indiegogo. The story went viral and now, more than $58,000 have been raised for the man.
Gold business scam
Two restaurant owners, Mr and Mrs Garg, were reportedly cheated of $1.3 million to a Burkina Faso (a country in West Africa) national named Mr T who claimed to work in the gold business and approached the couple regarding an investment in his business.
Mr T first attempted to gain the couple’s trust by giving Mrs Garg nine gold bars to sell and showed her business class tickets, costing up to $30,000.
He also promised her a monthly 5% return on her investment and when she did earn $20,000 in the first month, she invested even more in the form of a bank guarantee.
However, the couple did not receive any returns on their second investment. At this point in time, Mr T flew Mr Garg to Burkina Faso for his wedding and showed him his gold mines and office.
Mrs Garg only asked Mr T to return her the 400,000 euros when it was withdrawn in February but Mr T has since changed his phone number.
Sunshine Empire scam
The Sunshine Empire scam is likely the largest Ponzi scheme that has ever happened in Singapore.
It was marketed as a multi-level marketing (MLM) business that sold lifestyle packages to customers. Victims who bought the packages were given membership points that they could exchange on the Sunshine Empire e-commerce store for products.
On top of that, they were also promised returns of 10% per month. New victims were constantly lured in in order to pay off earlier victims.
After three years since its founding in 2006, the company was shut down by authorities and the mastermind, James Phang, had successfully scammed retired folks and students, among many other victims, of $180 million.
$65 million out of the $180 million that was scammed went to Phang, his wife, and their business associates. After they were fined and imprisoned, only $21 million could be recovered.