The Police have observed a re-emergence of purchase order scamswhereby scammers would pose as procurement officers from local universities and Government agencies. These scammers would induce unsuspecting companies into delivering goods with promises of payments at a later date. Since August 2020, the Police have received at least eleven reports of such scams, with total losses amounting to at least $749,000.
In such cases, the companies would receive e-mails purportedly sent by a generic procurement email address or an individual who will identify himself as the Chief Procurement Officer from local universities or Government agencies such as the Ministry of Education (MOE) or Ministry of Finance (MOF). These emails will request quotations for electronics, IT-related items and medical devices. The scammers would use e-mails bearing the names of the Chief Procurement Officers from these Government agencies, “<name of Chief Procurement Officer>@___-govsg.org”, ‘‘<name of Chief Procurement Officer>@___-sg,org” or e-mails bearing the template “procurement@___-sg.com” and “purchasing@___,org”, to convince the companies that they were genuine. The following are some examples of these emails:
- email@example.com (MOE)
- firstname.lastname@example.org (MOE)
- email@example.com (NUS)
Once an agreement has been made, a purchase order (PO) would be sent to the company via email. The company’s staff would believe that they had received a genuine email and PO and would then deliver the goods to the delivery address indicated in the PO. Preliminary investigations revealed that the delivery address indicated in the POs of such scams usually belonged to freight forwarding companies engaged by the scammers to ship the goods overseas (i.e. to UK, Gambia, and Nigeria). No payments were eventually received.
The Police would like to advise companies to adopt the following preventive measures:
- Verify that the sender’s domain name is genuine when receiving e-mails and purchase orders. In such cases, the domain names closely resemble those used by Government agencies.
- Always verify the authenticity of the request by contacting the Government agencies on their official contact numbers, instead of the numbers provided in the email.
- Look out for tell-tale indicators that the e-mail received might be a scam:
- The e-mail might be poorly written with grammatical or spelling errors.
- The delivery address could be that of a private residence, freight forwarding companies or a self-storage facility, rather than that of the Government agency.
- Educate your employees on how to detect and protect the company from such scams.
For more information on scams, members of the public can visit www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688. Anyone with information on such scams may call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. Together, we can help stop scams and prevent our loved ones from falling prey to scams.
Source: Singapore Police Force