OCBC Bank warned yesterday that there has been a sharp rise in the number of phishing scams via SMS messages that appear to be sent by the bank, with 26 customers losing a total of $140,000 to these scams in 10 days, from Dec 8 to 17.
It said: "For the month of December so far, OCBC has detected and initiated the takedown of 45 phishing websites, about eight times more than the average takedown requests every month."
The bank said of the scams: "Members of the public have received unsolicited SMSes purportedly from the bank claiming there are issues with their bank accounts or credit cards. The SMSes contain a link to a fraudulent website disguised as a legitimate bank website requesting banking information and passwords."
OCBC said it would never send customers an SMS to inform them of an account closure or that they have been locked out of their accounts temporarily.
The bank added that it would not send an SMS to customers with a link to reactivate their accounts.
"These are always communicated via physical letters to prevent online fraud," it said.
The bank also said it is working with the Singapore Police Force's Anti-Scam Centre to try to help customers recover funds lost through these fraudulent transactions.
The bank also works closely with the police to detect and prevent scams.
However, it said that once the money has left the customer's account, the possibility of recovery is very low.
OCBC said the first and strongest line of defence to combat scams lies with customers taking precautions to protect themselves.
It gave the following advice to customers:
• Never click on links provided in suspicious e-mails and SMSes.
• Always type the bank's URL directly into the address bar of a Web browser or use its official mobile banking app.
• Do not divulge banking login credentials or one-time passwords to anyone, or key such confidential information into unverified webpages.
• Do not transfer money to people you do not know.
• For those using iOS phones, download the ScamShield app, which blocks unsolicited messages and calls.
Customers who are in doubt about the authenticity of any SMSes received are advised to contact OCBC on 1800-363-3333, or +65-6363-3333 if overseas, for verification, it added.