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Vivian Balakrishnan & Tan Wu Meng among MPs who received extortion letters, police reports filed

Singapore politicians receive extortion letters & lewd photographs

The Straits Times (ST) reports that over 70 people received extortion letters consisting of manipulated photographs of themselves in lewd poses in March and April this year.

Members of Parliament (MPs) such as Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Dr Tan Wu Meng, and Mr Edward Chia have now said they were the victims of such threats.

The three politicians have filed police reports regarding the matter.

Vivian Balakrishnan and Tan Wu Meng were victims of extortion letters

On 20 April, Dr Balakrishnan posted to Facebook confirming that he and several other MPs received the extortion letters.

The letters included a “fake distasteful image” with a threat, said the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Source: Vivian Balakrishnan on Facebook

“This conduct is deplorable and totally contrary to the values and good practices that we are trying to inculcate in our society,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

“We have filed police reports and will take appropriate legal action.”

Dr Tan, an MP for Jurong GRC, said via Facebook on the same day that police are investigating the matter.

Source: Tan Wu Meng on Facebook

“If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone in the public arena, regardless of your views or political persuasion. It could happen to any one of you or your loved ones,” he said.

Dr Tan added that he did not want to speculate on the “ringleaders” responsible and whether they were in Singapore or overseas.

 

“I’d rather not speculate on why this is happening now, at a very important time in Singapore’s history,” he said.

“But let me say this: We are not afraid. And we will not let anyone intimidate us or deter us from doing our duty.”

Edward Chia received digitally altered photograph

As for Mr Chia, an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, he said he received a distasteful photo where his face was digitally manipulated onto a figure, accompanied by an extortion demand.

Source: Edward Chia on Facebook

“While it’s not uncommon for public figures to face extortion scams, the rise of “deepfakes” makes it harder to discern reality from fiction,” Mr Chia said.

He pointed out that tools have made it possible for anyone to create deepfake content within minutes, posing a significant threat to Singapore’s social fabric.

“Unchecked, this can affect our public standing and those we love,” he said.

“We must unite as a community to combat these fraudulent acts. Weeding out these fakes requires a collective effort to verify and check suspicious content.”

He urged those encountering such content to question the sender or source, refrain from sharing it further, and verify the information with authoritative and trustworthy sources.

Over 70 people have received extortion letters so far

According to ST, the victims of the recent extortion cases received the letters at their workplaces.

The letters warned the recipients of “threatening consequences” if they did not contact the e-mail address listed.

Once victims contacted the e-mail address, the sender would demand payment, threatening to post the pictures on social media otherwise.

A 50-year-old victim reportedly lost S$20,000 after sending the amount as demanded.

Police said that the perpetrators involved likely accessed the photographs and workplace addresses of their victims from public sources online.

Advancements in editing tools using artificial intelligence (AI) make it increasingly frequent for such individuals to manipulate pictures and videos and use them for extortion, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports.

Victims in such situations should remain calm and file a police report instantly. They should also refrain from initiating contact or transferring money.

In addition, they must place the letter in a separate storage bag and pass it to the police.

Also read: PM Lee Warns Of Crypto Scams & Fake Ads Using His Image, Urges Public Not To Respond

Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at news@mustsharenews.com.

Featured image adapted from IoT Asia+ on Facebook and Tan Wu Meng on Facebook.

Sudeshna Dhar

Sudeshna is a lover of all romcoms, especially Gone Girl (2014).

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