19 arrested for suspected involvement in Ponzi-like job scams

SINGAPORE – Sixteen men and three women, all aged between 18 and 35, have been arrested for suspected involvement in Ponzi-like job scams with fake companies.

The Singapore Police Force conducted an islandwide anti-scam enforcement operation on Monday (Oct 11) and Tuesday after receiving several reports of WhatsApp messages, Facebook and Instagram posts as well as online advertisements promoting highly paid part-time jobs related to affiliate marketing.

In the scams, victims would be offered fake online jobs involving easy tasks such as following social media accounts and liking posts to boost viewership, said the police.

The victims were told that in order to earn a commission, they had to sign up for free membership accounts on certain websites and mobile applications.

After signing up, they would then be offered different membership packages, ranging in price from $10 to a few thousand dollars, with varying amounts of commission paid per task. They would be told to pay the fees via cryptocurrency or bank transfer to unknown individuals before they could start performing the job to earn a commission.

In most cases, the victims would be convinced that it was a legitimate job, as they would receive commissions during the early stages of their membership.

They would realise that they had been scammed only when they did not receive further commissions or were unable to make withdrawals from their member accounts.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the fake companies allegedly ran Ponzi-like schemes where new job seekers’ money were used to pay the commissions promised to existing job holders.

The 19 people arrested are believed to have participated in the scams by opening bank accounts, advertising to recruit potential part-time job seekers, and fraudulently registering and supplying mobile phone lines.

Some of them allegedly rented out their bank accounts to the scammers.

Police investigations are ongoing.

The offence of cheating carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine, while the offence of receiving stolen property carries a jail term of up to five years, a fine, or both. Money laundering carries a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $500,000, or both.

Screenshots of mobile applications of bogus companies. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Screenshots of mobile applications of bogus companies. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

“The police would like to caution job seekers to be wary of job advertisements that promise the convenience of working from home and being paid a high salary for relatively simple job responsibilities. Legitimate businesses will not require job seekers to utilise their own bank accounts to receive money on the businesses’ behalf or to make upfront payments to secure the job offers and earn commissions,” the police said in a statement on Wednesday.

For more information on scams, the public can visit ScamAlert’s website or call the anti-scam hotline at 1800-722-6688.