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Scams In Singapore: Why The Authorities Can’t Stop It, Even When Most People Know The “Investment” Is A Scam.

(Scam) prevention is better than cure.

With a GDP per capita of $87,000, Singapore is likely to be one of the world’s most targeted places for scammers looking to earn a quick buck.

A scam can take place anywhere to anyone. You could be scamed in your home by illegal durian sellers, or when you shop online on e-commerce sites like Carousell.

Both the young and the elderly can become victims of scams but more often than not, the elderly are the ones who are more susceptible. They may be less active (and thus, less savvy) on social media, and may lack the necessary information to be able to identify a scam that other people may instantly recognise.

Very often, the same older folks may be flushed with disposable cash from their retirement and are thus easy preys for scammers looking to find victims to “invest” in their get-rich-quick schemes.

How Scammers May Even Get Their Victims To Help Them Find More People To Scam

One of our friends, Kenneth, who is the co-founder of Seedly, recently shared on Facebook an experience he had on a cab ride. In his post, he mentioned that the driver shared with him that “he sells people investments to make money”.

The driver also mentioned that he is a “partner” in two European companies. And here’s where the sales pitch starts.

Cab Uncle: “I am now a partner in these two European companies, basically we are collecting investment amounts now. Starting not high only at 140 Euros, multiples of 3. If you put in 380 Euros today, 2 years down the road this investment becomes 39,000 Euros.”

Kenneth: “Wow, what exactly do they do?”

Cab Uncle: “They make investments in companies all the way until they IPO and property investments with how these 25 managers manage your money for you. They use Bitcoin to buy into these companies and that’s how they help you multiply your investments. Normal people like us we have no Bitcoin. You cannot apply directly; you need to use me as a referrer to get a discount on the investment.”

Source: Kenneth Lou, Seedly Personal Finance Community

If you are interested to find out more about his experience, you can read his full Facebook post here.

Read Also: How Easy Is It For DollarsAndSense To Scam Singaporeans?

Who Is The Authority In Charge Of These Investment Scams?

Since this appears to be an investment, it’s easy to assume that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is responsible. When it comes to investment scams however, this is frequently a misconception.

It’s true that MAS does regulate companies and provide licenses for companies to provide financial services in Singapore. However, the first big mistake that most investors victims make is that they are not even “investing” with an MAS-regulated entity in the first place.

MAS maintains a Financial Institutions Directory that can be used to check if a company is indeed licensed to provide financial services in Singapore. If the company is not listed on the directory, it means that the MAS do not regulate them. Investment scams will not be found in the directory.

Dealing with unregulated entities for financial services would mean forgoing the protection afforded under the laws administered by MAS. So it’s always recommended that you invest with a company that is under the Financial Institutions Directory.

In addition to that, MAS also keeps track of an Investor Alert List, where it provides a listing of unregulated persons who, based on information received by MAS, may have been wrongly perceived as being licensed or authorised by MAS. Do note that the list is not exhaustive and a company that DOES NOT appear on their list is not automatically legitimate.

Not surprisingly, a quick check on the Investor Alert List reveals that Atlantic Global Asset Management is on the MAS Investor Alert List.

Read Also: What I Learned From This Failed Scam Attempt

Turning To The Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Aside from MAS, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is the other authority that investment scam victims would turn to. More often than not however, victims typically only turn to the police after they have lost some, if not, all of their money, or when a promised payment was not made. By then, it’s usually too late.

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) investigates white-collar crimes in Singapore. Investment scams targeting members of the public is identified as one of the areas it covers.

At the same time however, victims have to be mindful that simply waiting for the police to step in to investigate and prosecute may not be a course of action that is ideal for them. There are many reasons for that, but for this article, we will highlight just two.

Firstly, the onus is on the authorities to be able to prove that the investment is indeed a scam. For example, in the case of land banking, victims may receive the title deed to an actual piece of land. The only problem, they might have paid 10 to 20 times more for what is essentially a worthless piece of land. Proving that they were indeed cheated will take time. Some of the “better-run” scams may be toeing in the grey zone of being technically legal, from the standpoint of the law. Proving that it’s illegal may not be as straightforward as what most of us think.

The other reason is your ability to recover money. If you do invest in a scam, chances of you being able to recover your initial capital outlay are relatively low, even if the police were to investigate it. Police investigation takes time and the victims’ money, once transferred into a local bank account, may quickly be dissipated into overseas accounts, where the chances of recovery are close to none.

For example in 2015, 260 investors lodged police reports against Suisse International. Their total loss amounted to more than $35 million. These police reports came after Suisse International failed to make payment to their investors.

Singaporeans Have To Educate Themselves On Investment Scams

Like it or not, protecting yourself against investment scams is a personal responsibility. While the relevant authorities can and will step in if misappropriation of funds or misrepresentation is reported to have occurred, any losses that we sustain from these investment scams would ultimately be borne by us, or our loved ones who have made these poor choices. Claiming an absence of education won’t help you recover your losses as well.

So keep yourself and your loved ones updated about common scams occurring in Singapore. We have an open Singapore Scam Discussion Facebook Group where members can post, share and discuss with one another scams that are currently occurring in Singapore so that we reduce the chances of falling victims to them.

Read Also: Scam Checklist – 7 Ways To Tell If The “Investment” You Are Looking At Could Be A Scam aims to provide interesting, bite-sized and relevant financial articles.

Learn together with like-minded Singaporeans at the Personal Finance Discussion SG Facebook Group by discussing a range of personal finance topics.

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