Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

New education campaign launched to address rising scam numbers

SINGAPORE – Scepticism and a wariness of deals that are too good to be true are the first line of defence against getting scammed, said Mr Gerald Singham, chairman of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

The number of scam cases reported in the first half of 2020 was 7,253 in the top 10 scam categories – over 4,200 more than the 3,027 cases reported in the same period last year.

This makes constant vigilance all the more important now as scammers have developed creative ways of going about their nefarious activities: by using technology to mask their numbers, or by employing new methods to filter through scores of potential victims in search of an ideal target.

Mr Singham highlighted the need for a healthy dose of scepticism and vigilance, particularly when receiving dubious phone calls or messages.

“There is no vaccine against scams. The best way to inoculate ourselves against them is to be vigilant, to be watchful, and to spot the signs,” he said.

To this end, the Singapore Police Force and the NCPC are rolling out the sixth edition of their annual anti-scam campaign: “Spot the signs. Stop the crimes.”

The campaign will run from August to March 2021, with a focus on sharing real scam examples with the public to educate people on how to spot the various telltale signs of scams – from impersonation scams to credit-for-sex scams.

The launch follows the release of statistics on Wednesday (Aug 26) that indicated a sharp 139 per cent year-on-year rise in cases in the top 10 categories of scams for the first six months of this year.

E-commerce scams, social media impersonation ruses, loan scams and banking-related scams topped the list of common scams, with surges in the number of cases in each of these categories. The amount lost in the top 10 scam categories also doubled to $82 million, up from the $41.6 million that scammers made off with in the first six months of 2019.

Mr Singham encouraged members of the public to not only stop and think before revealing personal details or handing over one-time passwords, but to also take the extra step of verifying information with a third party or the authorities.

“If someone approaches you for personal information or asks for banking details, it must raise suspicion. The onus must be on us – the potential victim – to stop the crimes from happening and cut off communication before any important information can be divulged.”

People should be all the more vigilant as scammers might create fake profiles to assume the identities of an old friend or family member, to get one to unwittingly part with cash.

In the instance of John (not his real name), 20, a scammer made off with around $1,400 from his bank account this July after duping him into handing over three Shopee one-time verification codes.

The scammer posed as John’s secondary school friend from Malaysia – whom he had not spoken to for two to three years – by duplicating her Instagram profile and chatting him up. The scammer claimed that in order to join a lucrative contest on Shopee, John had to give the scammer several six-digit codes to his Shopee account that had been sent to his phone.

“I didn’t even think about it and didn’t ask for verification before sending over the one-time pins because I thought it was my friend. It was only after I saw to my shock that the money was gone from my bank that I thought to check if it was really her,” John said.

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