Old Sin­ga­pore Dol­lars for New Ru­piah

A gang of scam­mers is tar­get­ing el­derly peo­ple in Jakarta by of­fer­ing Sin­ga­pore dol­lars at an ex­change rate that’s too good to be true.

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY KENNETH YE­UNG

At about 9.30am on July 16, Han­nah (60) had just walked out of her house in Kem­ban­gan, West Jakarta, when she was ap­proached by a well-dressed man car­ry­ing a suit­case. He asked Han­nah to help him find an ad­dress. He claimed to be an oil ty­coon from Sin­ga­pore, vis­it­ing In­done­sia on a char­ity mis­sion. He said his suit­case was full of Sin­ga­pore dol­lars, which he wanted to ex­change for ru­piah, so he could donate the money to a Mrs. Ma­sitoh, the man­ager of some or­phan­ages and Is­lamic char­i­ties.

While they were chat­ting, an older man walked up and joined the con­ver­sa­tion. He told Han­nah they should help the Sin­ga­porean to ex­change his money. At that point, a white car pulled up. The old man recog­nised the ve­hi­cle, say­ing it be­longed to his friend who worked at a bank. He in­vited Han­nah and the “oil ty­coon” to en­ter the ve­hi­cle to dis­cuss how to ex­change the money.

In the car, the men asked Han­nah about her per­sonal wealth, her fam­ily and whether any­one else lived in her house. They en­cour­aged her to ex­change her own money for some of the Sin­ga­pore dol­lars, say­ing she would make a hand­some profit and also be help­ing char­i­ta­ble causes. The older man con­vinced her by say­ing he would ex­change Rp25 mil­lion of his own money.

The ty­coon showed Han­nah some high­de­nom­i­na­tion Sin­ga­pore ban­knotes. Sin­ga­pore is­sues notes from just S$2 all the way to S$1,000 and S$10,000. The man said his S$1,000 Sin­ga­pore ban­knotes were each worth Rp10 mil­lion (US$690).

He of­fered Han­nah 13 of his S$500 ban­knotes (a to­tal of S$6,500) in re­turn for just Rp40 mil­lion – an ab­surdly gen­er­ous ex­change rate, as S$6,500 is worth Rp69 mil­lion.

Han­nah agreed to the ex­change but she was not car­ry­ing much money, so the gang drove to her house. She rushed in­side and grabbed her bank sav­ings pass­book, her ATM card and her ID card. Her son, Ab­dul Kho­lik (40), was at home but she did not stop to talk to him.

Back in the car, they started driv­ing to a bank when Han­nah re­alised she had for­got­ten her per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber, so the gang drove back to her house so she could find it. She was then driven to a branch of Bank Rakyat In­done­sia in Cip­ulir neigh­bour­hood of Ke­bay­oran Lama in South Jakarta.

In­side the bank, ac­com­pa­nied by the “busi­ness­man”, she with­drew Rp40 mil­lion.

They re-en­tered the car and made the ex­change. Han­nah was then dropped off at a road­side and given Rp300,000 to get a taxi home.

At home, she joy­ously in­formed her son of her good for­tune in be­ing able to make some money while help­ing the poor. He was sus­pi­cious and later dis­cov­ered the ban­knotes were from an old se­ries that had been with­drawn from cir­cu­la­tion and were no longer valid.

Han­nah’s daugh­ter Nuril Farah Dhiyah

(24) later went to the bank and ob­tained closed cir­cuit tele­vi­sion footage of the scam tak­ing place. She up­loaded the footage to her In­sta­gram ac­count and warned peo­ple about the scam. She said the “Sin­ga­porean” had also per­suaded her mother to give them two of her gold rings “as a me­mento” in ex­change for another two ban­knotes.

She said the rings were worth about

Rp5 mil­lion.

Han­nah later de­scribed the bo­gus oil busi­ness­man as be­ing tall, slightly plump, with light skin and nar­row eyes. She said she had been hyp­no­tised when the man re­peat­edly tapped on her leg while she was in the gang’s car.


On July 17, just one day af­ter Han­nah was fleeced, mem­bers of the gang struck again. This time, the vic­tim was Su­mini (58). She was walk­ing near her house in Len­teng Agung, South Jakarta, when she was ap­proached by a charm­ing man claim­ing to be an oil ty­coon from Sin­ga­pore.

He spun a sim­i­lar story about need­ing help to find an ad­dress so he could ex­change a suit­case full of for­eign cur­rency for ru­piah to be do­nated to char­i­ties. Next, a woman came along and joined the con­ver­sa­tion. She en­cour­aged Su­mini to help the man.

Then the car ap­peared. The woman said it be­longed to her hus­band, a bank worker. She told Su­mini and the busi­ness­man to en­ter the car with her, so they could go to the bank and ex­change the dol­lars.

Su­mini was ques­tioned about her fam­ily and her sav­ings. She ini­tially handed over her jew­ellery for 20 of the ban­knotes. Then, in­stead of go­ing to a bank, they drove to her house, where she opened a safe and handed over Rp11 mil­lion, more jew­ellery and some gold. All up, she gave the man about Rp70 mil­lion in cash and valu­ables.


When Han­nah and her chil­dren re­ported the case to po­lice, they pre­sented ev­i­dence in­clud­ing CCTV footage, Sin­ga­pore dol­lars, Rus­sian rou­bles and an ap­par­ently bo­gus busi­ness card in the name of Mr. Salim Anan Brother with an of­fice ad­dress in Sin­ga­pore and the Shell oil com­pany logo.

Nuril said that af­ter she up­loaded footage of the scam to In­sta­gram, sev­eral peo­ple con­tacted her, all claim­ing to be vic­tims of the same scam. She said all of them were mid­dle-aged or older, and most were women.

Jakarta Po­lice spokesman Argo Yu­wono said the case was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He ap­pealed to any more vic­tims of the scam to re­port to po­lice.


In an even more brazen scam, a group of three Chi­nese cit­i­zens and three In­done­sians posed as spir­i­tual gu­rus with the power to pre­vent dis­as­ters. Oper­at­ing from malls in North Jakarta, they would con­vince peo­ple to visit a high priest’s house. The phony priest told vic­tims they would soon suf­fer from a ter­ri­ble calamity un­less they handed over their valu­ables for a rit­ual cleans­ing. One vic­tim in late March went all the way back to his home in Bali, col­lected his worldly valu­ables, re­turned to Jakarta in early April and handed over Rp500 mil­lion in cash and jew­ellery. This was taken to a room and mag­i­cally washed, then handed back in a heav­ily-wrapped pack­age, which the man was told not to open for three days. Upon open­ing the pack­age, he found four pack­ets of In­domie in­stant noo­dles. Cur­ried chicken flavour.

Vic­tims of such scams in­vari­ably in­sist they were hyp­no­tised. The fact is, they were hood­winked be­cause they were ei­ther gullible or greedy or fear­ful. Hyp­no­tism is im­pos­si­ble when peo­ple are suf­fi­ciently as­tute to ex­er­cise crit­i­cal and scep­ti­cal think­ing. Just be­cause some­one claims they are do­ing some­thing in the name of re­li­gion doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean it is true.

See here for the CCTV footage of the scam­mer: www.in­sta­gram.com/p/BlVpvm4FSS_/?hl=id&taken-by=jakar­ta_ terkini

He spun a sim­i­lar story about need­ing help to find an ad­dress so he could ex­change a suit­case full of for­eign cur­rency for ru­piah to be do­nated to char­i­ties.”


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