2 men nabbed in M’sia after joint op, charged for allegedly operating malware to scam S’poreans

2 men allegedly operated servers to scam Singaporeans with malware: Police

Two men were allegedly involved in infecting the phones of Singaporeans with malware with the aim of scamming them.

They were eventually arrested in Malaysia after an international probe into malware-enabled scams targeting Singaporeans.

Source: Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

The duo was charged in court on Saturday (15 June).

1,899 Singaporeans fell victim to malware-related scams in 2023

In a press release last Friday (14 June), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said at least 1,899 people in Singapore reported downloading malware into their phones in 2023.

The victims had been tricked into downloading malicious apps into their phones. These apps allowed scammers to access the phones remotely and steal sensitive information like personal data and banking credentials.

Source: Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

This info was used to perform fraudulent transactions using the victims’ bank accounts.

At least S$34.1 million was lost in total from these scams.

Joint team formed involving SPF, HK & M’sian police

In response to these reports, a joint investigation team across three jurisdictions was formed in November 2023.

It was led by the SPF and included the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP).

Over seven months, the team uncovered leads regarding the criminal activities and infrastructure behind the scams.


Men allegedly involved in malware scam targeting Singaporeans

Finally, the team identified two men, aged 26 and 47.

According to its preliminary investigations, the duo allegedly operated servers that infected Android mobile phones with a malicious app.

The app enabled a syndicate to control victims’ phones, modifying their contents and manipulating their bank accounts.

The men were traced to a location in Malaysia and arrested there on 12 June with the help of the RMP.

They were then extradited to Singapore and taken into custody by the SPF on Friday (14 June).

RMP Commercial Crime Investigation Department director Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf was quoted by The Malay Mail as saying that the men, who are both Malaysians, are suspected members of a syndicate named “Trojan Spymax”. It operates actively in Asia, particularly in Singapore.

Upon their arrest, various items were seized including smartphones, passports, identity cards, and a watch, he added.

The items seized have an estimated total value of RM6,000 (S$1,700).

Men charged in relation to malware scam targeting Singaporeans

The two men were charged in court on Saturday (15 June) with the offence of unauthorised modification of computer material under the Computer Misuse Act 1993, SPF said.

If convicted, offenders face a prison term of up to seven years and/or a fine of up to S$50,000.

Additionally, the older man was charged with the offence of acquiring benefits from criminal conduct punishable under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992.

If found guilty, he may be sentenced to up to 10 years’ jail and/or fined up to S$500,000.

Both men have been remanded for further investigations.

Investigation led to arrests of suspects overseas

The joint investigation has also led to arrests of suspected scammers outside Singapore.

In Hong Kong, the HKPF arrested 14 people suspected of being money mules, i.e. they allowed scammers to use their bank accounts in exchange for money, thus facilitating the malware-enabled scams.

52 malware-controlling servers in the city were taken down.

SPF also shared information with the Taiwan Police during the course of the investigation.

This resulted in a raid on 15 May where four people were arrested. They allegedly used malware to transfer funds from the bank accounts of victims.

Assets worth about US$1.33 million (S$1.8 million) were seized, including cryptocurrency and real estate.

The syndicate had operated a fraudulent customer service centre in Kaohsiung, which has now been taken down.

SPF will continue to work with foreign partners to fight scams

Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Tay, who is Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigation Department, expressed appreciation to all those involved in the successful operation, including the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and our Malaysian, Hong Kong and Taiwanese counterparts.

The arrest of the suspects “demonstrates the resolve of the SPF in fighting scams”, he said, adding:

The SPF will spare no effort to go after criminals, even those who operate beyond our borders, and we will continue to work with our foreign law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice.

Also read: The OCBC scam took my life savings, this is how I made my peace with it

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Featured image adapted from Singapore Police Force.

Jeremy Lee

Analog person making do with a digital world.

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