10 tips for protecting yourself from online and phone scammers

A text message of a loan scam shown on a mobile phone. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
A text message of a loan scam shown on a mobile phone. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Police Force released its annual statistics on Thursday, which showed that overall crime here rose by 7.4 per cent last year compared to 2013.

The increase was largely due to a surge in cases of cheating involving e-commerce, which more than tripled to 1,659 from 510 in 2013.

Here are 10 tips from the police on how to avoid falling prey to online scammers.

1) Never give your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and personal information to anyone you don't know or have not made checks on. Do not provide information that is not necessary to make the purchase.

2) When buying from online sellers, check their track records. Ask the seller for a list of their previous clients or customers. Make enquiries with the clients or customers on the background and services provided by the seller. Take note that fraud artists can appear and disappear easily in cyberspace, so the lack of a complaint record is no guarantee of legitimacy.

3) Only do business with those you know and trust. Be sure you know who the company or person is and where they are physically located. Businesses operating purely on the Internet may be located in another part of the world, and resolving problems with unfamiliar parties may be more complicated when it comes to cross-border transactions.

4) Inspect the item carefully before buying, and always ask for more details to confirm its legitimacy. Ensure you know what is being sold, the total price, the delivery date, the return and cancellation policy, and terms of any guarantee. Do not be lured in by only the price of the product.

5) Never provide your personal details through e-mail. Should Paypal require your information, you will be asked to log into your account to provide this information. Always log into your Paypal account to verify your purchase or payment status before sending orders out.

6) If you receive messages or calls from anyone claiming they need you to urgently send money to you from overseas, you should report the matter to the Police and not make the transfers.

7) Do not accede to any online requests that may put you in a vulnerable situation, such as acts of indecency or giving out your personal information.

8) Never agree to requests to help you make purchases or transactions, especially if it appears suspicious and unusual. When receiving such messages, check with the account holder if he has indeed sent these messages.

9) Users of mobile messaging apps are also advised to protect their personal information by using secure passwords of eight characters with numerical figures and letters, which should be changed regularly, and installing anti-virus software on these devices.

10) If you are threatened by would-be kidnappers, do not send any money to them. Instead, contact the police and your loved one immediately to ensure their safety.