02 Mar 2020

Committee of Supply Debate 2020 on “Together, A Safe and Secure Home” Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

1. Mr Chairman, I will focus on: (a) MHA’s efforts to tackle tech-enabled crimes; and (b) our partnerships with the community for crisis-preparedness. I will also address the questions raised by Members.

Strengthening Measures to Tackle Tech-Enabled Crimes

2. Technology has changed the way in which criminals operate. Social media platforms offer criminals a new means of targeting victims. Foreign syndicates use the Internet and spoofing technology to obscure their identity and conduct illegal activities.

 

3. Our enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments.

 

4. Scams are an area of concern. Last year, we saw a significant rise in police reports of scams. Most are online scams.

 

5. Ms Jessica Tan, Ms Rahayu Mahzam, and Mr Tan Wu Meng asked what more can be done.

 

6. Police have been enhancing their capabilities to disrupt such activities. For instance, the Anti-Scam Centre was set-up in 2019 to mitigate the losses of victims.

 

7. We will do more. Given the different domains that online scams can impact, we will be setting up an Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS) comprising MHA, MCI, MTI, and other members, to execute a comprehensive strategy to combat scams. This would include:

(a) Deterring potential perpetrators;

(b) Limiting the ability of perpetrators to conduct operations in Singapore;

(c) Mitigating the losses incurred by victims; and

(d) Ensuring that the public is vigilant and wary of scams.

 

8. The Committee will coordinate approaches and efforts across Government, and pool resources.

 

9. But even as the Government steps up efforts to combat scams, we cannot do it alone. Businesses have a role to play too, especially those such as e-commerce platforms and banks, which can also be exploited by scammers, causing monetary losses to customers. We will work closely with such businesses to put in place upstream measures to limit the ability of criminals to do harm.

 

10. That said, the best defence against scams continues to be a discerning public. Criminals are looking to exploit people’s feelings for loved ones or other personal motivations. We urge the public to be sceptical of incredulous promises, to utilise escrow accounts provided by the platforms for transaction where possible, and to check with the authorities when approached by dubious people purporting to be government officials. Police will continue to work with the National Crime Prevention Council to engage the community and spread this message.

 

11. Mr Chairman, I would now like to make a few remarks in Mandarin.

 

12. 网络诈骗分子的干案手法层出不穷。随着网络交易量的增加,网络诈骗案子也有所增加。这是令人担忧的。政府将成立跨部门委员会探讨如何打击网络诈骗。企业也需负起责任,建立安全的交易平台,有效地保护客户的利益。

 

13. 而公众最好的应对方法是:提高警惕, 保持机警,加强辨识能力。我们吁请公众只在可靠的平台进行交易。若有疑惑,向有关当局查证。惩创于已然,不如防患于未然。每个人可以,也应当尽一份力,让诈骗分子无机可乘。

 

English Translation of Mandarin section of speech

 

14. Scammers are constantly devising new ways to snare their victims. With the increase in online transactions, online scams have also increased. This is a worrying. The government will be setting up an Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS), to discuss how to tackle scams. Businesses also have to take responsibility and establish safe platforms for transactions, to effectively protect consumer interest.

15. That said, the best defence against scams continues to be a discerning public. We urge the public to besceptical of incredulous promises, transact online using secure payment such as escrow accounts, and to check with the actual authorities when approached by dubious entities purporting to be government officials. Prevention is better than cure. Everyone can, and should play their part in not allowing scammers to win.

 

 

16. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the actions taken against those who pose as charities to solicit donations.

 

17. Any person found guilty of falsely representing a registered charity to solicit money is liable to a fine of up to $10,000, three years imprisonment, or both. Depending on the facts of the case, the person may also be liable for offences in the Penal Code, or the House to House and Street Collection Act.

 

Unlicensed Money Lending

 

18. Mr Christopher de Souza asked what we will do to tackle the Unlicensed Money Lending (UML) situation.

 

19. The Police will work with stakeholders such as banks to take action against suspected UML runners. The fourth anti-UML campaign was also launched in January 2020.

 

20. Mr Yee Chia Hsing suggested that messages from UMLs and sports betting syndicates should be made more easily reportable. We thank the Member for his feedback. We will continue to explore ways for such spam messages to be reported more conveniently.

 

Regulation of electronic gaming

 

21. Mr Leon Perera raised a question on regulating gambling, specifically loot boxes.

 

22. MHA takes into consideration whether the player can convert any in-game assets into real-world ones during or through the platform. If so, we may block the game from being accessed from Singapore. The game operator may also be liable under the Remote Gambling Act.

 

Human Trafficking

 

23. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the Home Team’s efforts to combat human trafficking.

 

24. Our officers undergo regular training on how to recognise the tell-tale signs and respond sensitively to victims of human trafficking. Our agencies exchange information on human trafficking syndicates with our foreign counterparts.

 

Policies on Foreign Spouses

 

25. Associate Prof Walter Theseira asked whether the Long-Term Visitor Pass Plus (LTVP+) can be granted to all foreign spouses of citizens.

 

26. Our policy for transnational couples is generally to facilitate the formation of stable families here. A foreign spouse can be granted a Long-Term Visitor Pass (LTVP) if the sponsor is able to support the family. An LTVP+ may be granted later, if the marriage proves stable.

 

27. On the matter of rental housing, the couple can apply for a rental flat if they have a citizen or Permanent Resident (PR) child. For those with other household structures, HDB will consider their request on a case-by-case basis.

 

Partnering the Community to Deal with Threats to our Safety and Security

 

28. Mr Patrick Tay, Mr Tan Wu Meng and Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the Home Team’s plans to partner the community to deal with threats to our safety and security.

 

29. We are fortunate that Singapore has not experienced a terror attack in the past few decades, but we must not be complacent. Terrorism causes loss of lives, injuries, and damage to properties. But of more concern - it can tear societies apart.

 

30. We launched the SGSecure programme in 2016 to sensitise, train and to mobilise our community to play a part in preventing and responding to a terrorist attack. We will continue to roll out customised programmes for different domains, such as schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods and community groups.

 

Partnering the Community to Save Lives

 

31. To enhance the community first response for cardiac arrest victims, we launched the Save-A-Life (SAL) initiative in 2015. More than 5,200 Automated Electronic Defibrillators (AEDs) have been installed in Singapore since then. Over half a million people have been trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation–Automated Electronic Defibrillators (CPR-AED) skills, of which 75,000 have registered with the myResponder app, to assist victims of cardiac arrest prior to the arrival of the SCDF.

 

32. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin asked how SCDF will continue to provide efficient and effective Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The EMS Tiered Response Framework was launched in 2017, which allows us to prioritise life-threatening emergencies to receive faster and enhanced services.

 

33. Still, one out of ten calls received are false alarms or non-emergencies. Since April 2019, cases assessed by the SCDF as non-emergencies will not be conveyed to the hospitals. This ensures that SCDF resources are only used for emergency cases. SCDF will continue to raise public awareness on when “995” should be called.

 

Conclusion

 

34. To conclude, the Home Team will develop stronger capabilities to deal with new challenges, but more importantly, we need to work in partnership with the community. Together, let us build a safer and more secure home.

 

35. Thank you.

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