Published: 22 February 2023
Ms Poh Li San: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs in view of the 32.6% increase in scam cases and 13 scam syndicates busted in 2022 (a) whether more resources will be deployed by the Ministry and relevant agencies in the financial sector to deal with the growing case load; and (b) whether more can be done in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions to track and arrest culprits responsible for the scam cases.
Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development:
1. Mr Speaker, Sir, with the resources the Home Team has, the Home Team has reorganised ourselves for greater efficiency and effectiveness. For example, the Police set up the Anti-Scam Command in March 2022, to consolidate and optimise resources and expertise in scams across all their units.
2. The Police also partner stakeholders from the public and private sectors in our fight against scams, to complement and supplement our own capabilities. They worked with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore to co-locate staff from six major banks at the Anti-Scam Command. Staff from the Government Technology Agency are also co-located at the Anti-Scam Command to support police investigations in Singpass-related scams. This has enhanced the Police’s capabilities to more expeditiously stop more people from falling prey to ongoing scams, and freeze bank accounts before the scammed monies flow out of Singapore.
3. The MAS also works closely with the Standing Committee on Fraud of the Association of Banks in Singapore to drive anti-scam efforts in the financial industry. This includes implementing robust measures to safeguard customers, such as putting in place an emergency “kill switch” for customers to swiftly freeze their bank accounts which they suspect may have been compromised.
4. The Police have leveraged technology to enhance our ability to deal with scams and facilitate quicker decision-making. For instance, they use analytics to detect and block scam websites. This includes tools that look out for tell-tale characteristics of scam websites.
5. As scammers are mostly based overseas, our efforts to solve scam cases depend significantly on the cooperation from foreign law enforcement agencies. We are keen to enhance cooperation, but this will depend on their capacity and receptivity. Let me repeat that again. We are keen to enhance collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies, but this will depend on their capacity and receptivity.
(a) Where possible, the Police work with overseas counterparts to exchange information and conduct joint operations to dismantle scam syndicates. In 2022, close collaboration between the Police and foreign law enforcement agencies led to the successful takedown of 13 scam syndicates.
(b) Since 2017, the Police have been a member of the multilateral platform called the Asset-Recovery Interagency Network - Asia Pacific. The network spans 28 member jurisdictions within the Asia-Pacific region and aims to increase the effectiveness of members’ efforts in depriving criminals of their illicit profits.
(c) INTERPOL also plays a crucial role in our fight against scams. They provide a platform for the Police to collaborate and share intelligence with the larger international policing community. In 2022, the Police participated in Operation HAECHI III, a global operation coordinated by INTERPOL over five months to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime. About 1,000 suspects were arrested and over USD$129 million worth of virtual assets were seized.
6. Enforcement alone, however, is not enough. We have also put in place upstream measures to try to prevent scammers from approaching Singaporeans in the first place. Such measures include working with telcos to block SMSes sent from unregistered sender IDs, and overseas calls attempting to spoof domestic phone numbers.
7. Ultimately, the best defence against scams is a discerning public. We have stepped up our public education efforts. This year, the Police, together with the National Crime Prevention Council, launched the new anti-scam campaign called “I can ACT against scams", which calls on the public to take concrete actions to protect themselves and their loved ones by taking the three key steps of ACT - “A”, “C”, “T”:
(a) “A” for “ADD(ing)” security features, such as installing the ScamShield app;
(b) “C” for “CHECK(ing)” for scam signs and to verify with official sources; and
(c) “T” for “TELL(ing)” authorities, family and friends about scams.
8. Thank you.