SINGAPORE: When scammers posing as China officials demanded he pay a S$60,000 (RM197,563) fine for money laundering offences, a frightened 17-year-old foreign student agreed to become their “undercover agent” to combat fraud.
The Secondary 4 student from China was told he would be forgiven for his crimes and, if he performed well, would even be recommended to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) some day.
Worried about getting into trouble with the authorities and wanting to bring honour to his family, Peter (not his real name) took his role seriously.
In an interview on Oct 7, the student’s guardian, who declined to be named, told The Sunday Times how the teen was tricked into working for scammers in July.
The guardian, who is in his 30s, said the scammers went to great lengths to manipulate Peter into thinking he would be working as an undercover agent for them in an operation to nab fraudsters.
This included transferring S$500 (RM1,646) to Peter to buy a suit, tie, shoes and a briefcase, and to take an identity card photo as an agent.
They also faked care and concern for him, texting and calling him every few hours to remind him to eat and study hard.
For two to three weeks, Peter reciprocated enthusiastically by reporting his every activity, such as when he left school, to the scammers.
With the photo he had taken, the scammers fashioned a fake identification pass for him.
Peter's first task was to show the fake pass to someone, presumably a scam victim, said his guardian, and get the individual to sign a document.
When he completed the task, the scammers praised him and reiterated that he could one day join the CCP.
Encouraged, Peter took on his second task of printing documents that the scammers had sent him.
But the printing shop was closed. With time running out, he asked his guardian for help.
Said the guardian: “That was when I felt something weird was going on as he was reluctant to send me what he wanted to print.”
After the guardian questioned Peter further, the teen revealed everything.
The guardian was horrified that Peter refused to believe he had been scammed.
The guardian told Peter the criminals would have used a cash deposit machine to transfer him the S$500 (RM1,646) to cover their tracks. When the teenager saw it was true, he realised he had been tricked.
The guardian took Peter to the police station immediately. He was arrested and had his passport impounded.
The guardian engaged a lawyer, Richard Siaw from R.S. Solomon LLC.
Following investigations, Peter was let off with a warning.
Siaw said: “Luckily, we had taken screenshots of his conversations with the scammers as evidence, as all the messages were deleted when the scammers realised something was wrong.”
The experience was stressful for Peter and it affected his studies, but it was a valuable lesson for him.
The teenager said: “I suggest everyone think twice before acting and be vigilant when dealing with calls from strangers.” – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network