Published: 14 October 2020
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether there has been a drop in scam cases in the past six months since the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams was formed; (b) whether the committee has explored how telecommunication companies (telcos) can play a bigger role to combat online scams; and (c) whether it is possible to work with telcos to set up a system where customers can report a scammer and telcos collectively block the scammers' phone number' or IP addresses across our local telco networks.
There were 10,402 cases of scam reported in the first eight months of this year, which is a 100% increase over the 5,229 cases reported during the same period last year.
The sharp increase could be partly because more people are staying at home and carrying out more online transactions during this COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, we saw a spike in e-commerce scams involving face masks, hand sanitisers, and other COVID-related products, as well as scams where scammers impersonated officials from the Ministry of Health to obtain victims’ personal data and information. There were also significant increases in social media impersonation scams, banking-related phishing scams, loan scams, investment scams and tech support scams.
The Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS) was set up in April 2020 to develop additional measures to combat scams. The IMCS is looking at four broad areas: (i) improving scam detection and disruption capabilities; (ii) developing measures to secure the digital space; (iii) enhancing loss recovery for scam victims; and (iv) improving public education and outreach.
We have also been working with the telcos on measures to counter scams that are perpetrated using telecommunication services.
First, efforts have been made to identify and block potentially fraudulent calls for the public. Most scammers are based overseas and often use number spoofing technology to mask their real phone number. Since December 2019, telcos have started blocking international incoming calls that resemble Government agency or emergency numbers. Telcos have also implemented the ‘+’ prefix for all overseas calls since April 2020 to get consumers to exercise greater care when answering overseas calls.
Second, when a Police report is lodged about a scam and investigations have established that a local phone number was used in the scam, the phone number is sent to the telcos for remedial action to be taken, including termination of the number. Similarly, whenever Police investigations reveal that a website was used in the perpetration of scams, the website will be forwarded to the Internet Access Service Providers to be blocked.
MCI, IMDA and the Police will continue to work with our telcos to put in place measures to better protect Singaporeans from scams. The Member has suggested setting up a system where the public can report scam calls and for these calls to be blocked. We will look into this suggestion.