In recent months, there have been an increase in phone scammers in Singapore <Read about phone scams here>. Such scammers would impersonate themselves as employees of DHL, DBS or Chinese authorities and claim that the victim has an illegal parcel held by the Chinese customs, and they would require the victim to transfer huge sums of money to get out of trouble. In the last three months, there were more than 50 reported cases, and the amount being scammed is more than S$4 million!
Interestingly, the Singapore Police has found an unlikely partner in fighting phone scammers. Last month alone, there were four reported cases of money remittance agents alerting the police for suspicious transaction. In one case, an elderly 70 year old woman was cheated of S$100,000 and she remitted the money through a remittance agent. When the scammer asked for another S$100,000, she went back to the same remittance agent, but was turned away because the amount was too large over a short period of time. She then went to another remittance agent to do the transfer. The staff at the remittance agent noticed the large amount and contacted her daughter for verification. This was when the daughter realized that her mother had been scammed.
Money changers and remittance agents are regulated by MAS. As a money changer or remittance agent, one needs to have in place anti-money laundering policy and procedures according to MAS Notice 3001 – Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism. This regulation requires money changers and remittance agents to look out for suspicious activities, e.g. breaking large amount transactions into smaller amounts over a period of time etc. They are also required to record customer particulars and retain copies of identification documents for large transactions (> S$5000 for money changing and > $1500 for remittance). As these processes have been in place for many years, it has become a second nature in the money changing and remittance industry.
It is heartening to know that while fighting criminal frauds, our law enforcement agencies are able to rely on businesses to look out for suspicious activities. To the businesses, stopping a crime not only demonstrates good corporate citizenship, but more importantly, it directly helps someone who has been victimized.
On a bigger picture, if all businesses are vigilant against money laundering, it will deter criminals from using Singapore as a conduit to channel their ill-gotten gains. Without dirty money in our financial system, it will strengthen our position as a true financial hub.