How To Do Money Scams – In recent years, fraud cases have continued to rise as scammers find different ways to cheat unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned money. In the latest ScamSituation report between January and March 2020, at least $41.3 million was lost to scammers. This is approximately $9 million (or 27.9%) more compared to the same period last year. In this issue of Life, read on to learn the state of fraud and why it’s important for everyone to be informed and vigilant against fraud.
E-commerce fraud, social media impersonation fraud and loan fraud were the top three types of fraud reported in the first three months of 2020.
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The most common platforms for e-commerce scams in Singapore are digital platforms such as Carousell, Facebook, Instagram, Shopee and Lazada, where fraudsters usually charge low prices for their goods, which in turn attracts unsuspecting online customers. To avoid falling victim to e-commerce scams, buy only from reputable platforms with customer protection policies or insist on paying only after goods are received or services are rendered. Remember, if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
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Scammers usually asked victims for personal details such as their mobile phone number, internet banking account details and one-time password (OTP) under the pretext of helping them enter fake contests or promotions allegedly organized by Lazada, Shopee and Qoo10. . Victims would later discover that fraudulent transactions were made from their bank accounts and mobile wallets without their consent. Never share your internet banking account and OTP details with anyone – legitimate contests or promotions will never ask for such details. Your OTP is like your ATM PIN, don’t reveal it to anyone.
Members of the public will receive SMS or WhatsApp messages offering loans and loan services. Scammers may claim to be employed by a licensed moneylender. Interested parties are required to transfer money as a deposit before the loan can be disbursed. After making the transfer, victims find that the scammers can no longer be contacted. In another variant of the loan scam, fake messages advertising loans would be sent by banks such as POSB, DBS, UOB, CIMB and OCBC. Banks and authorized moneylenders cannot send such loan ads.
Despite relentless efforts to put out anti-scam tips, some continue to fall into these traps. To prevent this situation, stricter enforcement measures were taken in 2019.
On June 18, 2019, SPF established the Anti-Fraud Center (ASC) within the Department of Commercial Affairs (CAD). ASC focuses on disrupting fraudsters’ operations and mitigating victims’ financial losses by working closely with financial institutions, telecommunications companies and digital platform owners.
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Since its inception, the ASC has received more than 3,300 reports and has been able to freeze 2,600 bank accounts and recover approximately $3.7 million in losses. ASC has improved its operations by working closely with banks to quickly freeze accounts suspected of being involved in fraudulent operations. Fund transfers involving such accounts will be intercepted within days – a significant improvement on the process, which previously took up to two weeks.
In addition to the big three local banks (DBS, UOB and OCBC), seven more banks have joined this initiative since November 2019, further strengthening the close cooperation between the SPF and financial institutions to disrupt fraudsters’ operations. As fraudsters adopt the use of PayNow as a money transfer platform, ASC has also worked with the Singapore Banks Association to reduce the time it takes banks to provide transaction details to PayNow from weeks to just days. This process alone has helped to increase the chances of recovering the defrauded money from the victims.
To deter local fraudsters from committing their crimes in Singapore, they continued to step up law enforcement across the island. In 2019, the SPF conducted 85 operations targeting local e-commerce fraudsters, which resulted in the arrest of 112 fraudsters who were responsible for 1,223 cases of e-commerce fraud. In addition, there were 10 law enforcement operations targeting mules who handed over their local bank accounts to fraudsters or helped fraudsters make money transfers using their personal bank accounts. In 2019, 1,040 money mules involved in more than 2,100 fraud cases were investigated.
As a significant proportion of online crime is committed remotely by foreign syndicates, the SPF continued to work closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to crack down on such syndicates targeting Singaporeans. In November 2019, CAD worked with Royal Malaysia, Hong Kong forces and the Macau judiciary to jointly bring down a transnational online fraud syndicate based in Malaysia. Three Nigerian and 15 Malaysian fraudsters were arrested during the operations. The syndicate is believed to be involved in at least 139 cases of online scams, reported in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau, with losses of around $5.8 million.
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In addition to law enforcement, they continued to increase public education and engagement efforts with stakeholders such as stores, remittance agencies and banks to raise awareness of fraud. This included training frontline counter staff to spot signs of individuals who may unwittingly become victims of fraud and prominently displaying crime advice at counters and ATMs.
Together with the National Crime Prevention Council, they have undertaken numerous fraud prevention initiatives and organized many anti-fraud events to warn the public about fraud, including the Let’s Fight Fraud campaign for the community and business operators. Community events such as road shows, galas and community safety and security programs have also been used as platforms to spread fraud awareness and prevention tips.
Through these efforts, SPF has demonstrated that the fight against fraud remains a priority. However, the public has a role to play in the fight against fraud. Most of the fraud is committed from overseas and it is almost impossible to recover the money once it has been transferred out of Singapore. The public is urged to exercise caution when transacting online and exercise due diligence to protect against becoming a victim of fraud. Members of the public should not disclose personal information, especially banking information, to others, including people claiming to represent them or other law enforcement agencies.
To learn more about the different types of scams and how to avoid falling prey to them, visit www.scamalert.sg.
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“While it will continue to educate the public about crime prevention measures it can take, members of the public must play their part too. They should be aware of the latest scam tactics and always be vigilant to protect themselves, their friends and families from falling prey to scams. Together, we can fight fraud more effectively. “
“Beware of common scam tactics, such as incredibly low prices, asking you to reveal your one-time passwords (OTPs), asking you to pay government fines or helping investigations by transferring money. It is the responsibility of each individual to prevent fraud and to prevent their friends and loved ones from being defrauded. Let’s take active steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones from fraud and be a fraud community.” If you receive unsolicited phone calls, text messages via SMS, messaging apps, or come across ads on social media or online offering loans or loan services, you may have encountered a loan scam. Scammers may pretend to be employed by a licensed money lender to gain your trust. You are then required to transfer money before the loan can be disbursed. Scammers disappear after the money is transferred. They may also request personal information such as NRIC and contact numbers, Singpass details and bank account numbers. The information is then used to harass or threaten you for more payments.
They promise instant, hassle-free loan approvals, however, you will need to transfer your fees to them before they can process your loan application.
Ignore all unsolicited loan ads. Authorized moneylenders are not allowed to advertise. Block and report the number or ad to the platform on which the ad appeared.
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Contact licensed moneylenders only using the contact details found in the register. Scammers can pose as licensed moneylenders using their names, license numbers and creating fake websites.
Authorized lenders must meet the borrower at an approved place of business to conduct a face-to-face physical identity check before making a loan. Online loan approval and granting is not allowed.
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