Published: 04 January 2021
Mr Yip Hon Weng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the past three years, how many QR code scams have been reported; (b) how are the authorities stepping up on action against such crimes; and (c) what are the Ministry's efforts to increase awareness of QR code scams, in particular among the seniors.
1. We are aware of two types of scam involving QR codes.
2. The first type involves deceptive QR codes to divert victims to malicious websites for the phishing of personal data or for fraudulent payments. For example, in China, scammers print deceptive QR codes on stickers and paste them over genuine QR codes on bikeshare bicycles. Users who scan these deceptive QR codes will be deceived into making payment to the scammers instead of the bikeshare operators. We are also aware of scammers deploying deceptive QR codes on spoofed websites to con users, who are expecting to download a legitimate app, into installing malware on their device instead. While we have seen reports of such scams in other jurisdictions, there have been no cases reported in Singapore so far.
3. The second type are scams where QR codes are merely the medium through which the scam is perpetrated, and deceptive QR codes are not used. For example, we have seen victims of internet love scams and China official impersonation scams in Singapore knowingly scan legitimate QR codes to initiate fund transfers to the scammer’s bank account or a cryptocurrency address. We have received about 210 such reports in the past three years.
4. Most banks have put in place measures to safeguard e-payments with QR codes. For instance, consumers have to activate their payment app of choice before they can scan QR codes for the e-payment, and have an opportunity to verify the payees’ particulars before authorising the e-payment. This minimises the possibility that they will unwittingly authorise the e-payment to a scammer upon scanning a deceptive QR code. We will continue to work with the banks to study additional measures that can be put in place.
5. But the key in the fight against scams is a discerning public. To increase awareness of scams, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) launched a new anti-scam public education campaign, ‘Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes.’, in August 2020. The campaign focuses on sharing real-life scam examples to educate the public on how to spot the tell-tale signs of various scams. Police also work with Residents’ Committees and grassroots volunteers to spread scam alerts to residents, including senior citizens, via WhatsApp and at community events like block parties, roadshows, festive events and Community Safety & Security Programmes. The NCPC spreads awareness of online scams through their bi-weekly WhatsApp broadcasts and social media platforms. Police and NCPC will continue to monitor the scam situation closely.