Published: 06 October 2023
1. Thank you Google for hosting us today, and also a very warm welcome and great thanks to our YouTube creators for joining us – we are going to work with you, and leverage on your strength, and hope that through your outreach, you can join us in this fight against scams.
2. Just now, in the video, we’ve seen some of the videos that our YouTube creators have created, and very interestingly, we see that our YouTube creators have reached out to their specific audiences and have created YouTube videos which are very specific to their own specialisations, and where they could speak from a position of strength and awareness; and in doing so, be very convincing and appealing to their audiences.
3. So we saw Josh, from theastuteparent – he had created a video from the scammers’ and victims’ perspectives – two different perspectives - to highlight that everyone is vulnerable to scams, but I think when you approach it from the scammers’ perspective – you are looking at the ‘coin’ from two sides of it – as to how people are playing on our weaknesses, and how we are vulnerable to these unfortunate advances from scammers.
4. We also know Bloomr.sg created a reel on the functions and benefits of the ScamShield app. We have seen Seth, from Sethisfy Personal Finance create a video detailing his personal reflections about scams, and the need for everyone to ‘ACT’ against scams. We saw One day at a Time podcast which was about an interview with, unfortunately, an influencer who was scammed. And also Myindianlyf who had also created a video recounting an anecdote of a fellow influencer who was scammed. So I guess, perhaps from the perspective from the influencer, it is not just about yourself as a content creator reaching to out to your audiences, but your own personal stories, whether as a victim or as a friend of the victim - all these real, convincing stories will help audiences better understand that anyone can be a victim of scams.
5. MHA has conducted many surveys, and when we ask our citizens “Are you aware of scams?”, many people say “yes, we are aware of scams”, and we easily have 70% of the population say “we are aware” of scams. But when we ask them “do you think you will be a victim of scams?”, everyone thinks that they will not be a victim of scams. If you look at the numbers – we released our mid-year statistics in September - scams increased by 64.5% to 22,339 cases, just in the first half of 2023. This is compared to 13,576 cases in the same period last year – so just juxtapose this number versus what I shared with you earlier. If everybody thinks that they won’t be a victim of scams, why do we still have 22,339 cases in the first half of 2023? The only tiny silver lining is that the amount lost to scams, has come down slightly- 2.3%.
6. Just now, one of our influencers had shared that it is not just about the financial impact, it is also about the mental and emotional distress that is caused to victims.
7. I have spoken to victims myself. They come, they speak to me. From a person who loses $9,000; to an elderly couple who lost $800,000 in life savings. Just about two weeks ago, they spoke to me – law-abiding citizens who were scammed in a police impersonation scam, because they thought they were part of investigations into money laundering. They are in their 70s, definitely not your ‘criminals to be’, but they felt that they had to do their part as law-abiding citizens and be helpful to investigations by the police. And in so doing, they provided their bank account details, gave away their OTPs, and as a result, lost their life savings of $800,000. I heard about this first-hand, they came to see me, so the distress is very real, the impact is very real - not just for themselves, I also met their child; and it doesn’t just stop at one generation, the monies and savings could have helped the next generation. So you can see the longer term, longer-tail impact of scams.
8. So today is really an effort by Google, working in partnership with the Government to reach out to all YouTube content creators. I would like to thank you - Just Keep Thinking, Geek Culture, MunahHirziOfficial, Wah!Banana, Modern midlifers, Shout, BenRanAway, Double Up, The Mocking Bird News, Spud Study, Sujimy Mohamad, Naomi Neo, and Natasha Kwek – thank you so much for joining us in this fight against scams.
9. I am deeply heartened by the collective efforts of the creators who have spent time, effort, and resources at creating scam awareness videos. Now we want to make it quite simple for our audiences, so we can have different ways of sharing experiences, sharing stories, sharing typologies, but I think at the end of the day, Singaporeans and fellow citizens would want to know – what can I do, to protect myself against scams.
10. So I would like to reach out to all content creators, and suggest that, however we structure the narrative, if we are able to bring it down, at the end of the day, to a few calls to action. What are the calls to action?
11. First, ‘A’ – Add; I am using a framework called ‘ACT’ – ACT against scams. The ‘A’ stands for Add. What do we add? Recently, the CSA shared about adding security apps to your phone. We have seen a huge spate of malware being downloaded into phones whereby scammers are then able to remotely control your phone and gain access to your bank accounts. So CSA has published a list of free security apps. If we can share this with more citizens, so they can add the ScamShield app, add these security apps, whether it is on an Android phone or an iOS phone, I think it would be very helpful. So this is one key message we want to share with all our audiences - add the ScamShield app, add security apps.
12. After that, Check – the ‘C’ in ACT. Check where you get your sources of information, or where that offer is from. For example, if it is property you are looking for, it is better to go to a specialised property search platform, rather than a general social media platform, which can be set up by anyone proclaiming he is a home owner, or a person who is renting. So we need to check on the source of information. And this is a lot like what Google is doing as well - fact-checking, working with Government to see how we can eradicate misinformation and disinformation online.
13. And the last part, ‘T’ – Tell, is about telling others about all the scam typologies – telling the authorities, telling banks, as soon as possible, when you hear about scams or when you are a victim of scams. Some of these sound like simple things. But I can say that such messages are worth repeating again.
14. For instance, the example I gave earlier – the elderly couple who lost $800,000. They had only reported the incident a week after it happened because the victim was not convinced that he was a victim of a scam. He only came to that realisation when the scammers stopped contacting him, and he wanted an update on the ‘investigation’. But as you can imagine, if you only report the scam one week after, unfortunately, a lot of the money that has gone into money mule accounts, and has already left our system. And it is too late for us to freeze accounts – because even if we had frozen all the bank accounts that were tainted with scam proceeds, there wasn’t much left in these accounts - a tiny fraction of what this couple lost. So timeliness is extremely important.
15. So we would like to reach out to you. When you create your content, do take a step back and remember that we are talking about human tendencies, that scammers are preying on. What are they? I mentioned this earlier – scammers are making use of Singaporeans being law-abiding, they flash some card and say they’re from the Police, and our citizens believe them. So that’s one human tendency that we have, so we have to warn our citizens that we shouldn’t be taken advantage of because of that.
16. The other elements such as greed, fear – just now we heard one of the influencers say earlier – that if it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. And also, unfortunately, the desire to be loved and accepted. So love scams – in the old times, we hear of the Nigerian Prince scam, it still exists – so some things, we feel that it cannot be; but it happens.
17. So do not be worried if your content does not feel like it’s out of this world or creative. I assure you, that where scam messages are concerned, repeating them, in different ways or even driving home the same messages again and again, will do so much in increasing social awareness about scams.
18. So once again, I thank you all for being here today. I look forward to hearing about your experiences and your feedback about how we can work more collaboratively together to ACT against scams. Thank you very much.