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  • Kyle Chua

Illegal Singapore Telegram Group Chats Selling Stolen Credit Card Details, Drugs & More

There’s been a rise in criminal activity on Telegram over the last couple of years due to the platform’s message encryption scheme and relative accessibility.

Credit: Reuters

Yesterday, a man was sentenced to six months and one week of jail for using stolen credit card details that he obtained from a Telegram group chat to pay for his taxi fares and fast food meals. Muhammad Syawal Kamis plead guilty to three charges of cheating, with two other charges being considered, as Channel News Asia reports.

Syawal reportedly used the stolen credit card to book taxi rides on 34 separate occasions and place orders at Burger King on seven occasions, amounting to S$562.91 and S$225.40 of fraudulent transactions, respectively. He also used the card to buy two carton boxes worth S$28.

"For this particular sentence, jail is mandatory. But if you carry on like this, and looking at the number of years ... you are looking at corrective training in future if you carry on this path," said District Judge Shawn Ho, referring to Syawal’s previous convictions, including a cheating offence in 2018.

This, however, is but one case linked to the illicit activities that are being conducted on Telegram group chats.

Last year, police investigated group chats on the platform that were allegedly sharing photos of Singaporean women in school uniforms without their knowledge and consent. The group chats also circulated screengrabs and video clips from the victims’ social media profiles, some of which were pornographic in nature. There were even groups that included sensitive personal information in posts. Members of the chat groups numbered in the thousands.

Screengrab of illegal drug marketplaces on Telegram. Credit: The Straits Times

Illegal drugs have also been sold via Telegram group chats. In December, officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) conducted a two-week-long operation to bust individuals who conducted transactions on the platform. The bureau arrested 154 drug abusers linked to Telegram transactions during the period, according to The Straits Times.

Outside of illicit criminal activity, Telegram group chats have also become a hub to spread misinformation, including anti-vaccine sentiments and alternative COVID-19 treatments. A lot of Singaporeans, for instance, are choosing to self-medicate against the virus and declining their vaccine shot after learning about the antiparasitic drug ivermectin on online group chats. The effectiveness of the drug in question has been ruled “inconclusive” by the World Health Organization. It’s also a prescription-only medicine that’s not available over-the-counter. This prompted some locals to order and distribute the drug illegally through Telegram group chats.

This should serve as a reminder for Telegram users to be vigilant when joining group chats and to avoid engaging in activities they suspect are illicit or criminal.

  • Telegram group chats have become a hub for illicit activity in recent years, facilitating the distribution of stolen credit card details, circulation of obscene photos and the sale of illegal drugs, among others.

  • A Singaporean man was sentenced to six months and one week of jail on Monday, 7 February 2022, for using stolen credit card details that he obtained from a Telegram group chat to pay for his taxi fares and fast food meals.

  • Online group chats have also become a tool to spread misinformation, including anti-vaccine sentiments.

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