Forum: Multi-pronged effort needed to protect consumers against scam calls

We thank Dr Leong Choon Kit for his suggestions on the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA: Update must ensure law keeps up with the times, Nov 7) and Mr Jonathan Boon for his letter (Spoof calls: Make telcos verify legitimacy of phone numbers, Nov 19).

Dr Leong shared his concerns on unsolicited moneylending calls and messages, which are different from unsolicited marketing messages that the Do Not Call Registry seeks to address. A licensed moneylender is not allowed to make any cold calls or send any unsolicited text messages to members of the public. Members of the public are advised to block the number and report it to the police.

On Dr Leong's suggestions to include the data of companies and their staff under the PDPA, there are other laws to protect companies and consumers from specific harms like unfair business practices.

Protecting data from misuse and consumers from harm is a multi-pronged effort involving various agencies, industry self-regulation, international collaboration and laws like the PDPA. Consumers also have an important role to play in protecting themselves.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will continue to promote digital literacy, especially among the more vulnerable segments of the population.

As Dr Leong has highlighted, many fraudsters operate from overseas. The police have been collaborating with foreign law enforcement agencies to detect and dismantle scam syndicates.

To address the problem of scam calls, since April, IMDA has required telecommunications companies to prefix international calls with a "+" to help consumers identify possible spoof calls.

As part of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams, PDPC and IMDA also work closely with other government agencies and telecommunication companies in Singapore to combat the problem of scam calls. IMDA and the police have also been working with telecommunication companies to pre-emptively block scam calls from overseas.

Mr Boon asked about mandating local telcos to implement Stir/Shaken authentication to combat caller ID spoofing for local numbers. IMDA is monitoring the development of the Stir/Shaken framework. This solution currently works for only domestic calls that are made using Internet-based technology, thus its applicability to Singapore's situation is limited as most of the spoof calls originate from overseas and are analogue-based.

IMDA will continue to explore technological solutions that can be deployed within our local telecoms operators' networks. Members of the public who encounter scam calls or messages are encouraged to call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/witness

We also note Dr Leong's suggestions on the reporting process. For Do Not Call complaints, individuals may go to https://eservice.pdpc.gov.sg/case/dnc to submit information. The form is simple to complete and PDPC will continue to optimise the reporting process.

Foo Wen Dee

Director, Communications and Marketing Division

Infocomm Media Development Authority

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