Singapore cautions in opposition to scammers requesting COVID-19 assist to India

Singapore, May 7

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Friday alerted the public that a new type of scam is being perpetrated where compromised WhatsApp accounts are being used to solicit donations for the purchase of oxygen concentrator machines to aid coronavirus-hit India.

In such cases, the fraudsters communicate with the victims using compromised WhatsApp account numbers, posing as their friends, the SPF said.

The fraudsters would claim to be raising funds to purchase oxygen concentrator machines for donation to India, which is currently facing one of the worst waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scammers would request for the victims to assist with the purchase or to donate to patients in India who are critically ill and are in need of life-saving oxygen.

“The scammers would emphasise the urgency of the issue and provide the victims with a bank account number for fund transfer, claiming that the bank account belonged to a supplier,” said the police.

“The victims would only realise that they have been scammed when the scammer became uncontactable or when they were informed by their friends that their WhatsApp account had been hacked,” the Channel News Asia reported, citing the police statement.

In screenshots of a WhatsApp conversation provided by the SPF, a scammer tells a victim: “I am ordering 20 pieces for charity. To be sent to India.”  

The scammer then claimed that their credit card was “maxed out” and there was “a remaining amount of SGD 3,750” to be paid to the supplier.

“Could you help me wire it to the supplier? Will wire it back to you on Monday morning. As I have already committed to purchasing. Can’t back out now,” the scammer added.

The victim then made the transfer as requested by the fraudster.

But when the scammer was contacted twice on Monday and Tuesday, there was no answer.

The police advised the public to beware of unusual requests received over WhatsApp, even if sent by their WhatsApp contacts.

“Verify whether the request is legitimate by checking with your family and friends offline” and “never send money to people whom you do not know or have not met in person before”, said the SPF.

Any unauthorised transaction made to their bank account should be reported immediately, it added.

The report comes as there has been unprecedented outpouring of support to India during a raging second wave of the pandemic in the country. Foreign governments, charitable organisations, celebrities and the Indian diaspora have mobilised efforts to deliver ventilators, oxygen concentrators and medicines to India.

India is recording over 4,00,000 coronavirus infections and over 3,000 deaths daily for the last one week.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India has a total of over 20.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 2,26,000 deaths. PTI

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