Amid rise in loan scams among the elderly, anti-scam drive launched to educate seniors

Ms Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second minister for Home Affairs Teo, announced the launch of the police roadshow and Echo against Scams in her speech on Nov 24. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Amid a rise in loan scams targeting the elderly, an anti-scamming programme for seniors was launched by the Singapore Police Force on Saturday (Nov 24).

Figures from the police showed that elderly persons were cheated of $88,000 in loan scams between January and September this year, a huge jump from the $4,700 that seniors lost to such scams during the same period last year.

Between January and September last year, there were 294 loan scams reported, with seven cases involving elderly victims aged 65 and older. During the same months this year, 713 loan scams were reported, with 22 involving seniors.

Loan scam victims typically receive SMS or WhatsApp messages offering loan services and then receive instructions to transfer money as a deposit before the loan can be disbursed.

On a brighter note, the amount of money lost to Internet love scams involving the elderly fell from $9.6 million from January to September last year to $860,000 in the same period this year.

Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre introduced the anti-scamming programme called Elderly Citizens Helping Others against Scams (Echo against Scams) this weekend.

Anti-scam ambassadors - seniors who can converse in dialects and share information on the latest scams with fellow elderly residents - have been recruited from Toa Payoh, Potong Pasir and Joo Seng estate.

Thirty-two anti-scam ambassadors were appointed on Saturday (Nov 24) at an inaugural Police Community Roadshow at Toa Payoh HDB Hub. Two more roadshows will be held during the coming weekends at Bedok and Jurong East. The series of community events aim to build stronger ties with the public and foster greater awareness of policing work, the police said.

The guest of honour at the Toa Payoh roadshow, Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs, noted that Toa Payoh has a large population of elderly residents.

She said: "While traditional crimes have come down, online cheating scams continue to rise... The elderly are especially susceptible to such online cheating scams."

"As more of them are trying their hand at technology such as smartphones and social media, more has to be done to make sure they don't fall prey to online scams," added Mrs Teo, who announced the launch of the police roadshow and Echo against Scams in her speech.

Echo against Scams ambassadors will be distributing anti-scam tool kits to fellow seniors, which include items like brochures on various scams, as well as fridge magnets with images of the staff passes of agencies that commonly visit households, such as the National Environment Agency and various town councils.

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