In other variants, victims who contact the number provided in the job advertisement would be instructed to complete tasks online, such as liking social media posts, or reviewing hotels and restaurants on a website, for a commission.
And in a Ponzi-like variant, victims would be asked to buy expensive memberships before taking part in lucrative job tasks. They would often do so until the the soaring membership costs forced them to stop.
Many realised they had been scammed when they were told they could only get their money back after finishing all the tasks, police said.
Where are these scammers located?
In October last year, two job scam syndicates based in Johor and Kuala Lumpur were busted in a joint operation by the Singapore Police Force and the Royal Malaysia Police.
Authorities raided an apartment in Johor and another in Kuala Lumpur, and arrested 10 Malaysians aged between 21 and 32.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the group had targeted Singaporean and Malaysian victims and laundered their criminal proceeds in Malaysia. The syndicate is believed to have targeted more than 390 victims reported in Singapore and cheated them of S$5 million.
How to avoid getting duped?
The police have urged job seekers to be wary of online 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 make upfront payments to secure job offers and earn commissions or utilise their own bank accounts to receive money on the businesses’ behalf, the police said.
“These acts are common ruses used by scammers to lure individuals into participating in their schemes or scams,” it added.
If you receive an unsolicited job offer, always verify the authenticity of the offer with the hiring company through their official channels, according to scamalert.sg. You can check the information against the “recruitment” section on the corporate website or by emailing the HR department.
The anti-scam website also urged the public not to respond to dubious job offers or download unverified apps from unknown sources to apply for a job.
Why do some still fall for it?
Beyond initially getting paid for the work, victims are often added to a WhatsApp group with members who are purportedly doing the same job.
These people would chat about their daily lives, share screenshots of the attractive sums of money they got, and actively deny that the job was a scam. These create an air of legitimacy for the victim.
When approached individually about whether it was a scam, the people would go to extra lengths to convince otherwise, telling the victim that they were “crazy” and that nobody had doubted the legitimacy of the job before, a CNA investigation in January revealed.
The front company in the scam would also have a legitimate and professional-looking website, complete with details like a phone number.
Can you get your money back?
Like in every type of scam, time is of the essence when it comes to tracing and recovering money lost.
The money will typically be routed through multiple accounts to evade detection, and if it leaves Singapore, it will become even more challenging to get back.
The police can freeze bank accounts and have successfully recovered money that was transferred overseas. But this is not a guarantee, especially as some jurisdictions could require victims to go through complicated and expensive legal processes.
The police have also consistently reminded people to reject requests to use their personal bank accounts to receive and transfer money for others, or risk getting implicated in money laundering activities.