Published: 03 March 2022
Mr Yip Hon Weng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) for the last three years, what is the annual number of victims of job scams who are aged 60 years old and above; and (b) what are the targeted measures to protect seniors who are looking for jobs from falling prey to these scams.
Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment:
1. Mr Speaker, from 2019 to 2021, there were 4,722 reports of job scam cases. Those aged 60 years old and older formed about 2% of the total number of victims. The majority – around 70% – were younger adults, aged between 20 to 39. This is not surprising, given that this group is more likely to be searching for jobs, and are also more willing to try out online or remote work.
2. Job scams exploit victims’ interest in easy, work-from-home settings, such as to generate hype on e-commerce platforms, or traction for social media accounts and content. In many of these cases, scammers had created professional looking apps with references to e-commerce listings or social media posts, to enhance the appearance of their legitimacy. In this way, the scammers deceive the victims into thinking that they were participating in a genuine job scheme.
3. Scammers would then require the victims to download apps and set up user accounts by transferring funds to bank accounts that are created by the scammers. Victims were then instructed to perform tasks such as purchasing of items and clicking on posts to generate views, before they could receive their commissions. Victims usually only realized that they were scammed when they did not receive their commissions, or were unable to withdraw money from their accounts after performing their assigned tasks.
4. To address this, education is key to protect people from falling prey to scams. Our anti-scam public education campaign, called ‘Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes.’ is in its second year and its coverage also extends to job scams. The Police regularly share crime information, including scam prevention advice, with the community and grassroots volunteers, for the purpose of their engagement with residents about scams. Volunteer Crime Prevention Ambassadors from the National Crime Prevention Council also share crime prevention tips with residents, during their engagements. To reach out to seniors, the Police work with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and SGO, and we’ve also worked with MCI and IMDA through the SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme and the Seniors Go Digital Programme in our outreach to our seniors.
5. Besides education, we have also stepped up enforcement efforts. Specialised units have been set up in the SPF to disrupt scammers’ operations, and these include the Anti-Scam Division (ASD). Specifically for job scams, the SPF has conducted targeted operations to dismantle the syndicates. Between September 2021 and November 2021, the SPF conducted three island-wide anti-scam enforcement operations targeting money mules linked to job scams. These led to the arrest of 135 individuals and investigation of 141 others.
6. Given the transnational nature of job scams, the Police have also stepped up collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies. In December 2021, the SPF worked with the Royal Malaysia Police to dismantle two scam syndicates believed to have perpetrated job scams and fixed deposit investment scams targeting Singaporeans. 15 people were arrested — eight in Malaysia, and seven in Singapore.
7. As I had mentioned, the best defence against scams is a discerning public. When looking for jobs, members of the public should always exercise healthy skepticism, and verify the legitimacy of the job offer. They should also refrain from making any advance payments to secure a job.