Enhance relevance of scam prevention messages

The Marine Parade Neighbourhood Police Centre thought of "cheating" people with unbelievable deals from vending machines.
The Marine Parade Neighbourhood Police Centre thought of "cheating" people with unbelievable deals from vending machines.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Singapore Police Force has made commendable efforts in posting scam alerts and providing information on precautionary measures to take when one receives dubious phone calls or e-mail messages.

However, a question remains as to whether these messages have achieved the desired impact.

Research has shown that people tend to believe that negative events would not happen to them; they may even attribute falling prey to qualities inherent in the victim (for example, naivety) that they themselves do not possess.

The result is that scams are deemed non-relevant to oneself, and warnings fall on deaf ears.

How, then, can scam prevention measures be improved?

Psychological studies have shown that informing people about their assumptions of invulnerability can raise their awareness of such processes and help to reduce their occurrence.

Furthermore, emphasising the personal relevance of an issue - that scams can happen to you and have consequences for you - can prompt individuals to better process the warning message and enhance their recall of the message content.

Perhaps, such prompters should be included in future scam alerts, apart from just listing down the appropriate precautionary measures one could take.

A recent creative initiative by the Marine Parade Neighbourhood Police Centre ("When cops 'cheat' people for a good cause"; ST Online, Sept 8) incorporated these factors to persuade people that scam prevention is indeed applicable to them.

Allowing members of the public to experience a potential scam situation first-hand helped to increase their awareness of their vulnerability to situational influences, and better understand how to implement precautionary measures.

Future scam prevention (or even other crime prevention) initiatives could proceed in this direction, with increased interactivity with the public enhancing the relevance of crime alerts, uptake of the warning messages and eventual protection of individuals from falling victim to crime.

Shermaine Chionh Yun Jie (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Enhance relevance of scam prevention messages'. Print Edition | Subscribe