On Assignment

Scram, Scams!

Read how police psychologists tackle scams by understanding the psyche of scammers and victims, and learn how to ACT against scams at the second edition of SCAMINAR.
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PHOTO: Joash Tan

Coaxed by scammers to transfer large sums of money to assist with an “investigation”, an elderly woman refused to believe officers from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) that she had been scammed.

"To help stop the elderly woman from becoming a scam victim, police psychologists developed a psychological profile of the scammers, who were assessed to be using persuasion principles of authority and fear in scamming the victim," said Carolyn Misir, Principal Psychologist with Police Psychological Services Department and Office of Chief Psychologist under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"The psychologists together with ASC officers contacted the woman's family members to explain that she was likely a target of a China Officials Impersonation Scam, and successfully thwarted the scammers' ploy," added Lee Rong Cheng, Lead Psychologist with Police Psychological Services Department.

This was just one of the many cases that Carolyn and Rong Cheng often had to deal with. 

According to a mid-year crime brief released by SPF, the rise in scams contributed mainly to overall crime increase in the first half of 2022.

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In the first half of 2022, there were 14,349 cases reported and $227.8 million lost to top 10 scams. GRAPHIC: SPF

Scammers are opportunists who take advantage of prevailing situations, for example COVID-19 to perpetuate vaccine-related scams, and prey on human nature and emotions like fear, greed to defraud their hapless victims.

Anyone can therefore be susceptible to scams and there is a need to debunk the pervasive stereotypical view that only the foolish become victims.

“This negative perspective of victims has heightened the optimism bias that leads individuals to fall prey to scams, and also deters victims from confiding in their loved ones for emotional support, which exacerbates the scam situation,” Carolyn explained.

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Posters by SPF and National Crime Prevention Council to raise awareness on various scam types. GRAPHIC: NCPC

Rong Cheng and Carolyn started looking into scam-related crimes as early as 2018 by analysing cases and conducting in-depth victim and offender interviews to better understand their profiles and the different types of scams out there.

The challenge?

“To keep pace with the ever-evolving scam techniques,” said Carolyn. “Scams evolve very quickly, thus it is important for members of the public to have current knowledge or information on scams, so that they are aware and take steps to protect themselves.”

The second edition of “Scaminar 2023: ACT Against Scams” aims to do just that – to discuss ways to ACT against scams to protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

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Scaminar will be held on 18 January, sign up for tips on how to ACT against scams!

“When individuals ACT, it lowers their risk of being targeted repeatedly by scammers,” said Rong Cheng. “When individuals ACT, they also help others in their communities avoid scams.”

SCAMINAR! ACT Against Scams 
Following the inaugural run in 2021, the second edition returns this year on 18 January titled “SCAMINAR! ACT Against Scams!” in a hybrid format. It brings together various Government agencies and community partners to call on everyone to ACT against scams.

Event details
18 January (Wednesday), 2.00pm to 5.30pm
On-site at Suntec Convention Centre, Engage Theatre 1, Hall 406
Online livestream on MHA Facebook

The seminar is jointly organised by Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore Police Force, National Crime Prevention Council in partnership with The Straits Times.

Written by

Elaine Lee


13 January 2023

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