Scams

Forum: Advice on online security muddied by mixed messages

A posed photo of a person picking up a phone receiver.
A posed photo of a person picking up a phone receiver.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

At least several times a week, I receive scam calls purporting to be from DBS, DHL, Singtel, StarHub and others, with the callers trying to get hold of personal information that can be used for identity theft and fraud.

We are constantly warned to beware of such scams, and given advice such as:

• To be wary of incoming local calls with the prefix +65;

• To never give personal information to an incoming caller;

• To not click on suspicious links in e-mails and SMSes.

This is all very good advice, but unfortunately, it is muddied by mixed messages.

The other day, I received an incoming +65 call from someone from Singtel offering a promotion and who sounded a lot like the scammer who had called a few days before.

It turned out that the second call was, in fact, genuine. But then why does a Singtel number have a +65 prefix?

I frequently get calls from bank staff or telemarketers who ask me for personal information for verification, when they are the ones calling me.

The authorities, too, have sent out SMSes with Web links. Within hours of these being sent, scammers were sending out fake messages.

This led to the genuine SMSes being flagged in Facebook and WhatsApp posts as scams.

These examples cause confusion and dilute the message of taking sensible precautions.

Ian Selbie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'Advice on online security muddied by mixed messages'. Subscribe