Between September and November 2018, a total sum of $78,000 was lost to cryptocurrency scammers in Singapore after they used a series of strategies involving spreading false information about fake investments online to attract investors.
A Straits Times report reveals that the scams were specifically designed to appeal to Singaporean residents by using well-known local personalities to endorse the scams – possibly without their knowledge or approval.
Speaking to the media recently, local police stated that the basic format of the scam involves the use of online articles which function as recruitment material for investors who do not carry out enough due diligence. Typically, the articles feature glowing endorsements and testimonials about the scam investment programs purportedly from prominent Singaporean public figures and celebrities, which attract several low-level investors who want to imitate the success of the featured individuals.
CCN reported on one such website in September, which used comments falsely attributed to Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the MAS chairman and Deputy Prime Minister as bait for investors to put their money into a dodgy bitcoin investment scheme. The website solicited personal data of users including contact details and bank or credit card details.
When the unsuspecting investors click on links in these articles, they are then taken to websites offering these investments and asked to submit their contact details, after which they are contacted by representatives operating on behalf of the investment schemes. According to the police, these schemes generally operate from outside Singapore and are not recognised or regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
It will be recalled that Singapore is currently one of Asia’s friendliest jurisdictions for cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, with several concurrent moves being made toward government-level blockchain adoption, cryptocurrency payment regulation and ICO oversight. Despite all of this, the MAS currently does not have a comprehensive crypto regulation framework, and no safeguards or guarantees are offered for cryptocurrency investment.
According to the police, putting money into any crypto investment schemes which are run from outside Singapore presents an additional layer of fraud risk for Singaporean investors as it is more difficult to ascertain their authenticity and identify the individuals behind the schemes. In addition, when pursuing claims against operators of such schemes, this presents an extra layer of difficulty as the promoters are not subject to Singaporean law.
CCN recently reported that Singapore is increasingly becoming a global centre for cryptocurrency investment and blockchain innovation, with the island state hosting more ICOs than the USA for the first time ever in August.
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