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The Ultimate Survival Guide to Scams

Scams are on the rise! Here are eight tips that will help protect you (and your wallet) from them.
Scam alert! Sounds too good to be true? It probably is. GRAPHIC: Jade Tan

Branded bag at a fraction of the price? Borrow money with zero interest? If these deals are too good to be true and setting off alarm bells in your head, you’re right to be wary – these are probably scams.

Now, more than ever before, scams are increasingly claiming victims. The top four scams in Singapore are E-commerce, loans, credit-for-sex, and Internet love scams; in fact, Internet love scams reaped a whopping $17.1 million last year!

Scammers have thrived in recent years by using the Internet to aid their schemes, causing an increase in all kinds of scams in Singapore since 2018. To combat this threat, in June 2019, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) set up the Anti-Scam Centre, a dedicated “nerve centre” that works with industry partners to combat scams.

The top 10 scams in Singapore during the past two years, and the total number of cases for the top four scams. GRAPHIC: Jade Tan

Here are eight tips that protect you from becoming a victim of scammers!

E-Commerce Scams

1. 90% Off?! Bargain Hunters Beware
Bargains – who doesn’t love them? All of us are guilty for searching the best deals, and when it comes to online shopping, the discounts seem endless. However, while online shopping platforms offer ease of transaction and communication between parties, this also makes things much easier for scammers. Here are some things you should look out for:

  -  Exercise caution when you come across unrealistic bargains.
  -  Read through ratings and reviews of sellers before each purchase.
  -  Think critically to make an informed decision.

2. Are You for Real?
Trust is a two-way street. Buyers and sellers should both verify their accounts and allow transactions to be subject to enhanced security measures. Some online shopping platforms are already playing their part. For example, in July 2019, Carousell took account verification up a notch with their latest collaboration with GovTech by allowing Carousell users to verify their identity with SingPass. 

3. See No Touch, Touch No See – See and Touch, Pay Money
Don’t be too quick to part with your money! Take advantage of online shopping platforms that only release payments to a seller upon confirmation that items have been received. Platforms such as Carousell offer such services – in fact, Carousell uses Caroupay, which allows payments to be held temporarily. Only when a buyer has confirmed receipt of an item are funds released to the seller. This is especially useful for big-ticket items such as hotel stays and concert tickets.

Loan Scams

4. “Need Quick Cash? $20K Loan with 0% Interest Rate!” 
We’ve all received text messages from moneylenders who offer low interest-rate loans. However, licensed moneylenders are not allowed to advertise through text messages – as such, whoever just texted you offering a free loan is obviously an illegal entity. Don’t entertain unlicensed moneylenders – simply block or report them. 

5. For Me to Know, You to (Not) Find Out
Never share your personal details with someone you don’t know – this is an old tip, but a great one. If you’re unsure of who’s asking for your personal information, do not give it. This includes details such as your bank account number, any contact numbers and definitely not your NRIC number. In fact, starting from 1 September 2019, it is illegal for organisations to collect an individual’s full NRIC number, so exercise caution.

Internet Love Scams

6. Stranger Danger
With the prevalence of e-commerce platforms, talking to strangers on the Internet is extremely common now. This also means that there’s a greater chance of falling prey to Internet cons as such credit-for-sex scams and Internet love scams.

One way to protect yourself is to be wary of strangers you befriend online. Even if you meet them in real life, there have also been cases of scammers pretending to be people they are not. Exercise caution and don’t be too quick send money to strangers online.

Everyone has a role to play in the fight against scams. GRAPHIC: Jade Tan
Phishing Scams

7. Don’t be Click-happy
Received a text or email asking you to check out their latest scheme by clicking on the link attached? It’s most likely a scam. Exercise vigilance by checking if the sender is legitimate, and don’t click on links from suspicious texts or emails. Do not release confidential information such as user account identification, password, PIN and credit card details to anyone.

8. Hello, Police?

Finally, if anything feels wrong or amiss about an online transaction, report it to the Police immediately. This will allow banks to take timely action and protect your assets.

In June 2019, SPF set up the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) to centralise the management of anti-scam enforcement and investigation efforts. This is SPF’s latest strategy to combat the rise in scams, primarily by disrupting scammers’ operations and mitigating victims’ losses. ASC has collaborated with the three local banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – to swiftly freeze scam-tainted bank accounts and retrieve bank account holders’ particulars for follow-up investigations within a few days. This is an improvement from the previous arrangement of being able to do this only between two weeks to a month.

Fighting Scams
In the first half of 2019, the total number of reported crimes increased by 7% to 16,745 cases, from 15,649 cases in the same period in 2018. This increase was largely due to a rise in scam cases. Check out the Mid-year Crime Statistics at this link

To provide information related to scams, call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or visit www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. To learn more about combating scams, call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or visit the Scam Alert website.

Written by

Cheryl Soh


12 September 2019

Law and order
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