Published: 07 April 2022
1. Thank you for inviting me to this event. I am very happy to see everybody here today.
2. This morning, for the first time, the Community Partnership Award will be presented to organisations and individuals to recognise their commitment and support towards the fight against scams. Let me first congratulate all award recipients, and to thank you for your very strong and consistent support.
Scams Situation in Singapore
3. Scams have been on the rise in recent years. In the last five years alone, the number of scam reports had quadrupled – four times over. In 2021, there were close to 24,000 reported scam cases, with total losses of more than S$600 million. Singapore is, and will remain an attractive target for online scammers because of our high connectivity and our openness to the world.
4. The fight against scams is therefore imperative, but at the same time, it is also very challenging. First, the National Prevalence Survey of Scams conducted in 2019 found that while the majority of scam victims had come across some form of anti-scam public campaigns, many of them could not recall any specific scam prevention tips. They also exhibited poor online hygiene, such as opening emails from unknown senders.
5. Second, scammers are also constantly evolving their modus operandi. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have preyed on the public’s increase in online activities, and exploited victims’ interest in fast, safe, and easy, work-from-home job offers.
6. Finally, many of these scammers are based overseas, making enforcement and remediation of funds very challenging.
Importance of Support from Community Partners
7. I chair the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS), which brings together government agencies and private sector partners, to coordinate our efforts against scams. Let me highlight three areas of coordination work by IMCS.
8. First is detection and disruption. The SPF works closely with private sector stakeholders to detect and disrupt scammers’ operations. For example, the SPF has worked with telecommunication companies to block scam websites, and with banks to freeze accounts that have been suspected to be involved in scam activities. Recoveries of monies would also require close partnerships with banks. Currently, a DBS staff is co-located with SPF at the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) to enhance the ASC’s capabilities to freeze accounts as well as to trace the flow of money. SPF is currently working with MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) for more banks to co-locate their staff at the ASC.
9. Second is enforcement. The SPF has been stepping up enforcement efforts to combat scams. Specialised units, such as the ASC, have been set up precisely to coordinate the SPF’s overall anti-scam investigation and intervention efforts. This year, SPF will form the Anti-Scam Command, which consolidates expertise in scams across all the SPF units, and thereby further improving coordination of anti-scam enforcement and interventions. The Anti-Scam Command will also oversee the newly formed Scam Strike Teams in the Police Land Divisions, which will enable us to be more effective in taking swift actions against scams.
10. Third is public education – a very important area. Disruption and enforcement alone are not enough. The best defence, as we say, against scams is a discerning public. Beyond public education campaigns, SPF also coordinates efforts with other public agencies and private sector stakeholders to develop measures and to raise the overall awareness to fight scams. Some of these partners include ABS, e-commerce platforms, public agencies like MOE and the People’s Association.
11. We also partner with the Asian Internet Coalition (AIC) to encourage their member organisations, as well as their employees and networks, to sign up for cyberspace-related interest group, also known as “e-Shoppers on Watch”, under the newly launched Community Watch Scheme (CWS).
12. Community partnership is key in the fight against scams. We are fortunate to have strong support from organisations, businesses and community partners and individuals in our collective efforts to deal with this emerging threat.
Singapore Police Force Community Partnership Award Ceremony
Community Partnership Award
13. This morning, we are giving out a total of 120 awards to recognise the contributions of individuals and organisations in our fight against scams. Let me name a few.
14. The Card Security Group or CSG Singapore is one of the winners of the Outstanding Community Partnership Award. CSG Singapore has worked closely with SPF to provide timely information to support enforcement efforts, as well as to develop joint merchant-education initiatives. In a recent enforcement operation, CSG Singapore’s support led to the swift arrest of 10 subjects who were involved in Nets Flash Pay card scams amounting to more than $1.6 million.
15. I am also pleased to award DHL Express (Singapore) Pte Ltd, with the Community Partnership Award (Organisation). DHL has shown massive support for Police’s initiative in combating scams, specifically in co-designing and distributing anti-scam crime prevention advisories. In Dec 2021, DHL assisted to print and distribute some 600,000 pocket-sized anti-scam advisories to our residents.
16. Individuals too have a part to play, in our fight against scams. In February this year, the alertness and quick thinking of Mr Joshua Wee, a bank officer at UOB, successfully prevented a 77-year-old bank customer from transferring over $100,000 to an unknown account and thus falling prey to a love scam. Mr Joshua Wee is here with us today, I’m not sure maybe you want to raise your hand, there he is at the back. I am pleased to be able to present to him later the Community Partnership Award (Individual).
Guidelines on Online Safety
17. Another important aspect of our whole of society partnerships in this fight against scams involves co-creating solutions. The online world has become an increasingly important part of modern life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is thus important for us all to recognise the types of crimes and harms which Internet users may encounter online, and equip ourselves with good online habits, so as to create a safe and secure online community.
18. Today I am pleased to introduce the new Guidelines on Online Safety, which is co-developed by SPF and the AIC.
19. These Guidelines on Online Safety provide a broad overview on the types of crimes and online harms, ranging from scams to terrorism, which members of the public may encounter on the Internet. They contain advisories on what Internet users may look out for, as well as measures that they can take to protect themselves.
20. In developing the guidelines, AIC engaged their member companies, including Google, Meta and Twitter, for best practices that these companies had adopted on their own platforms. We hope these guidelines will help foster a safer online experience for all users.
21. In conclusion, to effectively deal with scams, collective efforts by public agencies and private sector stakeholders are critical, besides individual vigilance. I am heartened to see our community partners and stakeholders stepping up in our anti-scam efforts.
22. Once again, I would like to congratulate all award recipients. Thank you for your contributions and support and we look forward to working hand in hand with you to make Singapore a safer place for all. Thank you.