Banking-related phishing scams see 20-fold increase in first half of 2020; move to messaging apps and social media

Victims of such scams receive a message via WhatsApp and may also be tricked by a fake advertisement on Facebook. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Banking-related phishing scams are not new but scammers have discovered new hunting grounds for victims: messaging apps and social media.

New variants of phishing scams in the digital arena involve fake advertising campaigns and lucky draws allegedly offered by banks, the police said on Monday (Oct 19).

Victims of such scams receive a message via WhatsApp allegedly sent by a local bank.

They may also be tricked by a fake advertisement on Facebook, asking them to participate in lucky draws or certain promotions to win attractive prizes.

Those who click on the URL link embedded in the text messages or fake advertisements are redirected to a fake bank website.

The website then asks them to provide their Internet banking details and one-time passwords.

Most of the victims only realise that they have been scammed when they discover that unauthorised transactions have been made from their bank accounts.

The police added that in order to target customers from different banks and payment service providers, scammers may modify these fake bank sites from time to time.

Banking-related phishing scams notched up the fourth highest number of reported cases among all scam types in the first six months of this year, the police said in August.

From January to June this year, 898 cases involving such scams were reported, up from 34 in the same period last year - a more than 20-fold increase.

In total, victims were cheated of $3.6 million in the first half of 2020, up from $93,000 in the same period in 2019.

Members of the public are advised to adopt crime prevention measures such as verifying the authenticity of the information they receive by accessing the official bank website.

They should also refrain from giving out their personal or bank account details and one-time passwords to anyone.

"Do not click on URL links in unsolicited advertisements and text messages, especially those related to lucky draws or contests," the police said.

Those who have experienced fraudulent transactions or fraudulent credit or debit card charges should report them to their banks and cancel their card immediately.

For scam-related advice, the public can call the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688 or visit this website.

Those who wish to provide information on scams may call the police on 1800-255-0000 or visit this website.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.