Elderly duo lose $26,000 in 'apple scam'
TWO elderly people have been cheated of nearly $26,000 in what is known as an "apple scam". The victims are told to put all their valuables in a plastic bag for a ritual, only to find out later that the items have been replaced with apples.
Scammers employing this tactic made a resurgence last month, with the police investigating two cases and reminding residents to be on their guard, Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday.
Wanbao understands that the two victims are elderly folk. The scammers used their usual ploy, telling the elderly that their relatives and friends were in danger of misfortune but a simple ritual would keep them safe.
The victims were coaxed into placing cash and jewellery into a plastic bag, which the scammers prayed over.
They would then leave with a word of caution to the victims not to open the bag until several days later, but the victims would do so only to find that the bag contained apples, water bottles or other cheap items.
The police confirmed the reports and said investigations are under way.
The scammers usually travel in groups and are highly practised, Wanbao reported.
They take different roles, including one as the "salesperson" to introduce the scheme, another as someone who has benefited from the ritual and a third to carry it out.
Neighbourhood police centres have sent out reminders to residents to beware of these scammers, who largely target the elderly.
Residents in Marine Parade have received flyers warning against falling for the apple scam.
Yishun North Neighbourhood Police Centre posted a similar advisory on its Facebook page earlier this month.
It advised the public to "be wary when approached by strangers who offer to help you perform rituals to prevent misfortune" and to refrain from handing over cash or valuables to anyone.
In late 2013, a group of five apple scammers from China made off with $430,000 worth of cash and jewellery.
Two members of the gang were arrested at the airport and given respective jail sentences of four years and 10 months and three years and five months.
More details of this scam and others are provided on www.scamalert.sg, a site operated by the National Crime Prevention Council.