2 Singapore teens were arrested by police recently. What wrong did they do, and how can you teach your children to spot imposters?
You might have come across this WhatsApp message a few days back, warning parents of teens who tried to forcibly extract money from unsuspecting children, claiming to be from the Police! These teens were seen mostly at MRT stations, and were reported to be asking for $10 in donations. A video of the same is also circulating on social media.
Many parents were worried about this, and wondering why the authorities weren't teaching them a lesson. Well, you'll be relieved to know that these Singapore teens were arrested recently!
Singapore teens were arrested
According to the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) post on Facebook, on Sunday, 9 April, these 2 teens, both male, aged 17 and 18, were arrested by officers from the Ang Mo Kio division.
They write on Facebook, "On 6 April 2017, the Police received a report of a group of young men claiming to be Police officers and engaging in aggressive tactics to seek donations in public."
"Through extensive follow-ups, officers from Ang Mo Kio Division established the identities of the group and two suspects were arrested on 9 April 2017. The Police are also investigating against the licensee for possible breach of regulations under the House to House and Street Collections Act."
"Police investigations are ongoing. Anyone found guilty of an offence of Impersonating a Public Servant, under Section 170 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, may be punished with an imprisonment term which may extend to 2 years, and shall also be liable to fine."
According to Channel NewsAsia, the teens first claimed that they were representing an advertising company, and collecting donations for charity.
Later on, to force people (mostly secondary school students) to comply, they changed their tactics, posing as police officers instead. From the many comments on the SPF's Facebook page, it emerges that they claimed the 'donation' would benefit ex-offenders. Some students even had their bags or wallets searched, if they didn't comply to these demands!
How can children be stranger smart?
How can we teach our children to be stranger smart and to not fall for an imposter's ploys? Commonly employed tricks are:
- The impersonator: The person will pretend to be a trusted person, a person of authority like a policeman. In Singapore, if someone is pretending to be a police officer, here is what to look out for, according to the SPF:
"If in doubt, they should request for the Police Officer’s Warrant Card to verify his identity before complying with the instructions of the officer. A genuine warrant card will have identification features such as the Police crest, the photo of the officer, his name and NRIC number."
"When the card is tilted at an angle, the holographic word “POLICE” will also appear below the Officer’s photograph. On the right of the card, you will also see a vertical row of 5 holographic police crests. If they are still unsure of the person’s credibility as a Police Officer, they should call 999 for assistance."
- Avoid secluded places: Children should avoid secluded places when going to or coming back from school. They should also be alert and vigilant at all times. A confident attitude will put off many criminals who mostly prey on confused, lost or distracted children. Body language is a good indicator of a child's personality; inattentive people usually make easy targets.
- Acts like he needs help: He could be all nice and smiling. He could ask for directions, or pretend to need help with carrying his groceries. Children should be suspicious of any stranger who asks for their help. When adults need help, they usually turn to other adults and not kids.
- Bribes you with gifts and promises: It could be a promise to buy ice cream. Or it could be candy or other gifts. An person with dubious intentions usually resorts to such methods to convince the child that he is a friend and a good person. His hidden agenda might be to persuade the child to go somewhere alone with him.
- "Your mummy is in hospital, come with me": One of the most commonly cooked up stories is about an emergency at home. An imposter-abductor might claim that one of the parents has met with an accident and the child needs to go to the hospital with him. Or it could be "your mummy sent me to pick you up." Small children should be taught to never believe such lies.
Some parents teach their kids an "emergency password", which they can use in case they really need to pass a message to their children. So if a stranger accosts them with such stories, the kids can ask for the "password". If the person does not know it, the child should get away from him as soon as possible.
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