2 in 3 S’pore residents not reporting scams on messaging platforms: WhatsApp survey

The three most common scams encountered were investment, phishing and job types. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two in three Singapore residents are not reporting scam messages they receive on messaging platforms, a survey commissioned by WhatsApp has found.

More than half of the 500 respondents said they did not report these messages to the platforms as they believed they were not likely to fall victim to the ruse.

They deleted the message or ignored it, said WhatsApp in November.

The three most common scams encountered were investment, phishing and job types. 

The police said $346.5 million was lost to all scams in the first half of 2022 – more than half the $633.3 million lost in the whole of 2021.

WhatsApp commissioned the survey to educate Singaporeans on the ways they can safeguard themselves against scams. 

Mr Daryl Poon, regional head for trust and safety at Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, said: “We encourage anyone who receives a suspicious message to pause, assess if the message contains an unusual request, and if so, report it within the app. 

“You may not have fallen prey to a scam, but reporting helps us prevent them from targeting your friends and family, and keeps our community safe.” 

To report a message, WhatsApp users can click on it and hold until a pop-up appears which will allow them to do so. They will then be informed that a report has been made. 

When someone lodges a report, WhatsApp receives the last five messages sent by the reported sender.

The offender will be banned if WhatsApp believes its terms of service have been violated. 

It also uses machine learning techniques to analyse fake accounts and fraudulent activity.

To tackle the scourge of scam messages, Google said it protects Gmail users from nearly 15 billion unwanted messages a day, blocking more than 99.9 per cent of them. 

A LinkedIn spokesman said its automated defences blocked 96 per cent of all fake accounts the platform detected between July and December 2021, which included 11.9 million accounts it stopped at registration.

Technology experts said that although messaging platforms may have put in place safeguards to filter out scam messages, it is still important for the public to report them. 

Assistant Professor Gordon Tan from the Singapore University of Technology and Design said: “If a significant proportion of users do not report scams, this will lead to an underestimation of the severity of the problem and also difficulties in identifying new trends and tactics, making it more challenging to tackle scams.”

Mr Andy Prakash, co-founder of cyber-security company Privacy Ninja, said: “By not reporting a scam account, other recipients of such messages, such as the elderly or those who are not privy to the latest scam tactics, may become victims.”

Prof Tan noted that these scams are so common because scammers can send messages to many people at once from multiple phone numbers. 

He said: “Since many of us have been exposed to scam messages that come from a different number each time, there is a sense of learnt helplessness, where users believe that they are only playing a game of ‘whack-a-mole’ by reporting scams, because they can report the scam today and have a new scam message appearing the next day under a different number.”

However, the experts still urge the public to report these messages.

Mr Prakash said this will ensure that the scam accounts will be “flagged and blocked by the messaging platforms earlier, thus lowering the number of potential scam victims”.

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