Published: 14 April 2023
Various stakeholders who with us here today,
1. We are here to discuss a very important topic – scams. Scams have really plagued our society. I had mentioned in Parliament that we are all waging a war against scams.
Scams Situation in Singapore
2. Singapore, by and large, is a safe and secure country. Last year, we were ranked the safest country in the world by the Gallup Global Law and Order Report, and physical crimes continue to remain low and stable.
3. However, as we all know, the number of scams has increased significantly. In 2022, we saw about 32,000 scam cases, about a 33% increase from 2021. Based on what I know, the numbers continue to increase. Every case is not just a case that the Police manages. There is a victim behind every case. The victim has family members and friends, and the victim of a scam is never the same person after the scam because apart from financial loss, they may have also undergone huge psychological stress.
4. Scams affect everyone, and everyone is vulnerable to scams. Based on Police reports, youths between the ages of 10 and 19 - and that is many of you here today - are particularly vulnerable to three types of scams:
(a) First, social media impersonation scams, where scammers impersonate known contacts or friends, and deceive victims into buying items for them.
(b) Second, phishing scams, where scammers send scam emails, text messages or calls to victims and deceive them into providing confidential information, revealing credit card or bank account information.
(c) The third category is e-commerce scams. Many of us use our mobile devices to purchase items, thinking that they are low-cost items. But sometimes, we make those payments and do not get the purchases that we have paid for.
5. I chair the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams, or IMCS. Many of my colleagues are here today. They have been working very hard, together with me on scams. We need a multi-agency effort to develop a systems wide collective shield to protect us from scams. It is not just the work of the Police; we have to work with various stakeholders, such as banks, telcos, and various government agencies. There have been many government agencies who have been impersonated. These scammers have used the trust that fellow Singaporeans have in government agencies, by leveraging on this trust, abusing this trust, and scamming our citizens. Over the past year, agencies have implemented a variety of measures to combat scams – you would have heard of the SMS Sender ID, or SSIR, and the emergency “kill-switch” to allow the public to suspend their bank accounts if they suspect their accounts are compromised.
6. Apart from that, we are also concerned about cybercrimes. An example of cybercrime is malware installation, where members of public unknowingly download files from unknown sources, leading to malware installation on their mobile devices, resulting in confidential and sensitive data, such as banking credentials, being stolen.
7. Ultimately, the best defence against scams is a vigilant and discerning public. And this is where all of you come into play.
8. I was walking around just now, listening to the games that you have devised and how you have done your research to understand more about scams and scam tactics. I have with me a deck of cards, and this is just an example, because there were 12 stations and everyone had their own set of cards. I picked this from Kranji Secondary School. Kranji Secondary did a lot of research, just like all the other teams here, but I picked this because looking at the action cards, they talk about the various ways that we can protect ourselves and others from scams. Things like “strong passwords”, “be sceptical”, “looking out for language errors in messages”, “whether a deal is too good to be true”, “asking others to stop and think” – a lot of research has been done. This is just one example, and I know that all our teams here have similarly done a lot of research to understand the top scam types in Singapore, the psychological profile of victims, and what we can do collectively to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
9. Makeathon is thus an example of how the SPF is working with the community, with our schools, to continue to not only build on the strong foundation of trust that we have, but also co-develop ideas together to better protect our public from scams.
(a) We saw in the video just now – over the past four months, our students had undergone a series of webinars and workshops to better understand the psychological profile of potential scam victims, the typical scam methods that could be used, and also worked with a company to understand how to gamify, so that the product – a game on scam prevention – can have a better outreach to members of the public.
(b) I hope that through this process, our students have gained a deeper understanding on the intricacies of scams and cybercrime. It is very clear that we all have a role to play in the fight against scams. No act is too small to keep our country safe and secure.
10. Today, we recognise the 12 outstanding teams that have been shortlisted for the Grand Finals. They are here today to showcase prototypes of games that they have developed.
(a) In some of these games, players are required to identify the common persuasion tactics employed by scammers, identify characteristics of scam calls and messages, and in other examples, players are required to come up with suggestions to help the community avoid falling prey to scams.
(b) I commend the teams for your contributions and your creativity. Please help us by telling your friends, your peers, and your family members to be an advocate. Tell others about how they can help themselves and prevent themselves from becoming victims of scams.
Fighting scams as a collective societal effort
11. The first thing to do is to add the ScamShield app. Just now, one of the teams showed me the “Add, Check, Tell” poster at their station. This is something which I hope we can all remember. What does “Add, Check, Tell” mean? Add the ScamShield app, Check the sources of the information you have received, and Tell the banks, Tell the authorities, Tell the Police if you come across a scam. Tell also by reporting to through the ScamShield app. With every report that you make of that scam SMS or scam phone call, that number will be blocked and it will prevent further victims from falling prey to scams.
12. As mentioned earlier, the best defence against scams and cybercrimes is a discerning public. This year, we launched a new national anti-scam campaign with the tagline “I can ACT against scams” as our rallying call. Through this campaign, we endeavour to go beyond inculcating scam awareness among the public, but also to equip members of public with concrete actions they can take to better protect themselves from scams.
13. I would like to congratulate you once again for embarking on this journey with us. Our work does not stop here. It does not end today. We have a war against scams, and each and every one of us has a role to play in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
14. Thank you very much.