MOH warns of SMS scams as Singapore begins Covid-19 vaccination drive

MOH put up a notice to urge people to be wary of scams regarding the vaccine.
MOH put up a notice to urge people to be wary of scams regarding the vaccine.PHOTOS: GRACE CHNG, UNSPLASH

SINGAPORE - As invitations roll out by text message for some to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, scammers are jumping on the bandwagon to dupe other members of the public.

Text messages, purportedly from a pharmaceutical company approved to provide the Covid-19 vaccine, have asked recipients to click on a link or make a phone call to schedule appointments for vaccination.

The Ministry of Health on Thursday (Jan 7) put up a notice to urge people to be wary of such scams and to verify the authenticity of text messages before offering personal or financial information.

"The text messages are not from MOH, and MOH did not approve any pharmaceutical company to contact anyone directly. We urge recipients not to respond to the messages," the notice said.

Ms Grace Chng, who received such a message on Tuesday, did just that.

It was from a number she did not recognise but bore the name "CHUANXIN".

The message, which read, "Modena, an American pharmaceutical company, has been approved to provide you with Covid-19 vaccine", instructed her to message another number on WhatsApp for registration.

"I have come across a number of scam text messages but I was surprised that this one was quite insidious. Unfortunately, these days you have to distrust before you can trust," said the 65-year-old writer.

Singapore has kicked off its nationwide vaccination drive, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong among those receiving the jab on Friday.

The MOH has started sending out SMS invitations to those who are eligible to register for the vaccination, starting with healthcare workers.

Those who receive invitations should check that the link in the SMS ends with ".gov.sg" before clicking on it, said the ministry on its website.

They should also not forward messages to others, as each invitation is unique, it added.

The MOH has also warned of another scam in which calls or text messages falsely inform recipients that they had been in close proximity to someone who had tested positive for Covid-19. These messages request for personal or financial information in return for a test kit and results.

Those who wish to verify the authenticity of such messages, or have more questions on the Covid-19 vaccination exercise can call the MOH hotline on 1800-333-9999.


Spotting a scam

- No government agency will request banking account log-in details or personal particulars over the phone.

- Ignore calls from unknown numbers. Scammers may mask their actual phone numbers and display a different number using ID spoofing technology. However all incoming international calls are prefixed with a plus sign.

- Stay vigilant when receiving unexpected international calls, and reject those with spoof local numbers.

- Never disclose personal or Internet banking details and one-time password to anyone.

– For more information on scams go to the Scam Alert website or call the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688.