Parliament: New inter-ministry committee formed to fight online scams

The number of police reports made on scams jumped by more than 50 per cent last year, with many related to e-commerce, fake loan and credit-for-sex schemes. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - A new inter-ministry committee has been set up to combat the growing scourge of online scams as more police reports were made on them last year.

The committee will formulate and carry out a strategy to deter and prevent online scammers from carrying out their operations, mitigate losses incurred and ensure the public remains vigilant of such scams.

The committee will be manned by representatives from three ministries - the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Trade and Industry - and others.

Announcing this during her ministry's debate on the Budget on Monday (March 2), Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that online scams were an area of concern and scammers have been deploying novel ways of cheating their victims.

The number of police reports made on scams jumped by more than 50 per cent last year, with many related to e-commerce, fake loan and credit-for-sex schemes.

Enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments, she said. For example, social media platforms have provided criminals with new avenues to target victims, and spoofing technology allowed foreign syndicates to mask their identities while committing crimes.

Apart from the new inter-ministry committee, the Government has also improved capabilities, with the formation of the police's Anti-Scam Centre last year to mitigate victim losses.

"But even as the Government steps up our efforts to combat scams, we cannot do it alone. Businesses have a role to play too," said Ms Sun, noting that e-commerce platforms and banks could be exploited by online scammers.

The Government will work with these businesses to put in place measures to deter criminals.

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"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," said Ms Sun.

The public should be sceptical of promises that sound too good to be true, and adopt precautions such as utilising an escrow account when making online transactions, she said. They should also check with the authorities when they are approached by dubious characters who claim to be officials.

"Let us be vigilant, so that the scammers will not succeed," said Ms Sun.

The Home Team will also continue to engage the community to prevent and respond to terror attacks through the SGSecure movement, by rolling out customised programmes to different community groups.

The Save-A-Life initiative was launched in 2015 to encourage the community to be first responders and save lives. More than half a million people have since been trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), she said.

"The Home Team will develop stronger capabilities to deal with new challenges, but more importantly, we need to work in partnership with the community," she added.

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