In what could be an act of pure sorcery or advanced technological know-how, scammers have managed to make the Ministry of Manpower’s phone number appear in the Caller ID of unsuspecting victims and then proceed to cheat them of their money.
The ruse was simple: The caller would claim to be from MOM, read out personal particulars of the victim — for example, the date of birth and foreign identification number — and then accuse the victim of doing something wrong, such as providing an incorrect date of birth in their embarkation form.
Not all who received the call fell prey as some called the police before any money changed hands, The Sunday Times reported on June 1, 2014.
However, one of the victims, an Indian national working as an academic researcher in Singapore, was tricked into agreeing to transferring money, which the scammers claimed is a “refundable” fee of $1,000.
Over the phone, another scammer — claiming to be a colleague from a different department in MOM — then instructed the victim to go to a SingPost outlet to transfer the money via Western Union.
After this first transfer, the victim was sometimes asked to make another transfer of $1,000 to the home country’s government.
From the start of the ruse, the victims will be urged to go online to check that the number 64385122 was indeed from MOM to prevent any suspicion.
And all the while, the scammers will sound professional and even pass the phone to another person claiming to be a colleague from another department.
From April 29 to May 22, there were 37 such cases reported.
Police said 15 of the victims lost amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each, amounting to more than $31,000 in total.
An MOM spokesperson has since said the ministry does not ask for payments over the phone and that fees are either paid at its office or through an official written notice.
It is still unclear how the scammers managed to hijack the official MOM contact number.