Published: 01 November 2021
Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when many people are struggling financially, whether sufficient protection measures are in place to protect individuals and to raise awareness on the multitude of financial scams which includes investment scams, job scams, e-commerce scams and loan scams.
1. The number of scams has been on the rise. In the first half of this year, there were 8,403 scam cases reported, up 16% from the same period last year. Loan scams, e-commerce scams, investment scams and job scams made up about half of all the scam cases reported.
2. We have adopted a multi-pronged approach to tackle scams. This is led by the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS).
3. First, we are strengthening enforcement. We have set up specialised units in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to disrupt scammers’ operations, such as the E-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team to tackle e-commerce scams, and the Anti-Scam Centre to serve as the nerve centre for investigations into scam-related crimes. The SPF has also stepped up collaboration and conducted joint operations with foreign law enforcement agencies. For example, in August 2021, the SPF worked with the Royal Malaysia Police to cripple a transnational job scam syndicate based in Malaysia that was believed to be responsible for more than 188 cases of job scams reported in Singapore.
4. Second, we are partnering stakeholders outside of the Home Team. In addition to drawing on the expertise and resources in other Government agencies, we also work closely with private sector stakeholders such as banks, digital platforms and telecommunications companies. For example, SPF works with financial institutions to swiftly freeze bank accounts suspected to be involved in scammers’ operations and to weed out money mules. SPF has also worked with telecommunications companies to block spoof calls used by overseas scammers.
5. Third, we are strengthening public education and awareness, as the best defence against scams is a discerning public. For example, we have been working with partners such as the National Crime Prevention Council to disseminate advisories through various media and online platforms. Our anti-scam public education campaign, called ‘Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes.’ is in its second year. These outreach and engagement efforts cover a variety of scam types, including loan scams and job scams, which seek particularly to exploit those who are struggling financially. Other scam public outreach campaigns include the ‘Beware! Investment Scams Campaign’ led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in April 2021, and the ‘SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme’ launched in June 2021 by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and the SPF.
6. Combatting scams requires a whole of society effort. MHA will continue to collaborate with government agencies and industry partners to this end.