Published: 07 July 2023
1. Good afternoon. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the many friends who are here with us today. Scams are unfortunately, everywhere, in Singapore and internationally, and we would have to rely on all our YouTube creators to help generate content that is important, useful and relevant to our local audiences.
Scams Situation in Singapore
2. Scams have increased significantly in recent years, and are currently the main driver of crimes. We had about 32,000 reported cases of scams last year. In Singapore, we pride ourselves on law and order, so this is a number that is of great, great concern to us. What is very concerning is that there is no specific vulnerable segment – every single person is vulnerable – from a young child who uses his parents’ e-wallet to the senior who falls prey to a fake friend call, to everyone in between who falls prey to love scams, job scams, or investment scams.
3. You have read horrifying instances about how scams today are in a way coexisting with human trafficking. Scam victims are being enticed with promises of good paying jobs. They go to Country A, then they get shipped across borders to Country B and before they know it, they’re in some place overseas being forced to work for organised crime syndicates to scam other victims. These crimes are being conducted from abroad by huge professional syndicates, but as we all know, once the monies leave Singapore, it is very hard for the police to recover them, regardless of all the relationships we have with foreign law enforcement agencies. We still see an absolute increase in the number of scam cases, as well as the amounts lost to scams.
Industry and Community Partnerships
4. We need your help because everyone is vulnerable, and we welcome industry and community partners to co-create solutions to fight scams. As businesses and individuals shift their activities online, scammers have also pivoted to online platforms to perpetrate scams. In 2022, messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, and social media platforms such as Facebook, were some of the top contact methods used by scammers.
5. Recently, we have also observed an increase in the number of cases involving malicious mobile applications and malware. These cases typically involve members of the public downloading applications from unknown sources, leading to the installation of malware on their mobile devices. This allows scammers to access victims’ devices and to steal confidential and sensitive data, such as banking credentials. Just this year, to date, at least $8 million were lost to malware-related scams. This is the environment we're now operating in.
6. All of us think, how can it be possible with high awareness of scams? Our survey results tell us that we have in Singapore, a high awareness of scams. Yet many Singaporeans do not take adequate measures to protect themselves. And so earlier this year, we had launched the A-C-T campaign: Act, Check, Tell. We want to make it simple for fellow Singaporeans to remember that this is what you should do to safeguard yourselves.
(a) A: Add. Add ScamShied app, add antivirus, update your phones with the latest security patches, because this is the modus operandi we see nowadays.
(b) C: Check resources. When somebody tells you he or she is your friend, call another friend to check that you know is a genuine friend, that this friend who just called you is also genuine. Or if there is an offer or a job offer or investment offer, check first, if it is too good to be true.
(c) T: TELL. Play your part by telling authorities about your scam encounters via the ScamShield app. The ScamShield app leverages crowdsourced data to improve the call blocking and SMS detecting capabilities of the app.
7. Police have been working very hard on the issue, putting out many advisories on the various scams, but unfortunately sometimes it is a lot of information and people may find it very hard to digest. That is where you creators come in, because you are creating content that is relevant and interesting. We need to work with our communities. Police will share with you all the various scam archetypes out there, so that you know what is happening out there – the threats, the vulnerabilities that Singaporeans face. I hope that you use your understanding of Singaporeans, your expertise and your following to share this information.
8. So, three key questions I would like to leave with you, as you consider how to create your content:
(a) How do we encourage greater public awareness of the dangers online and translate that awareness into action?
(b) How can we raise awareness of new scam tactics and equip members of the public with knowledge of scam signs and encourage them to adopt measures to protect themselves?
(c) How can we deliver our anti-scam messages to the public efficiently, in a tailored and targeted manner?
9. I would also like to say that the Government does our very best. You have heard Minister Josephine Teo mention earlier about passing a new legislation in parliament on the Online Criminal Harms Act. We are also working with various government agencies, Govtech SNDGO, IMDA, CSA, our banks, our telcos, and we have announced a whole suite of measures. At the Anti-Scam Command, we have several co-located banks to facilitate swift fund tracing and freezing of scam-tainted bank accounts. We are doing absolutely all that we can.
10. Let us work together on educating the public about scams. I hope that today we will have an inspiring, meaningful session where we can learn from one another. We can discuss how to work together on this because this is a long fight, and we are going to have to start right now. Thank you very much.