Police Anti-Scam Centre works with banks to thwart scammers

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap (third from left), assistant director of the Specialised Commercial Crime Division in the Commercial Affairs Department, with the team of six officers across various departments in the police who helped set up
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap (third from left), assistant director of the Specialised Commercial Crime Division in the Commercial Affairs Department, with the team of six officers across various departments in the police who helped set up the Anti-Scam Centre. They are (from left) Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Koay Lean Seong, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Lim Hao Jun, ASP Sim Yi Cheng, Ms Sharon Xie, head of the Asset Confiscation Branch at the Commercial Affairs Department, DSP Eric Wong and ASP Lim Min Siang.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Suspicious bank accounts linked to scams can now be frozen in a few days, thanks to collaboration between the Singapore Police Force and three major banks here.

By impeding fund transfers in this manner, the police's two-month-old Anti-Scam Centre aims to disrupt the operations of scammers and minimise the losses of victims.

Since it was set up on June 18, about 1,000 police reports relating to e-commerce scams and loan scams have been referred to the centre. So far, 815 bank accounts linked to scams have been frozen, allowing the recovery of 35 per cent - or about $850,000 - of the $2.4 million in losses in total.

This would have not been possible previously, as the process to freeze a suspicious bank account used to take about two weeks, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap, assistant director of the Specialised Commercial Crime Division in the Commercial Affairs Department, who led a team of six officers across various departments in the police to set up the Anti-Scam Centre.

The retrieval of bank account holders' details and bank statements for police investigations also used to take about 14 to 60 days.

But accounts at DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank can now be frozen in a few days. The screening of the account holder's details and latest bank balance can also be completed within the same timeframe, while bank statements can be retrieved within five working days.

There was a need to set up a centralised unit to tackle the crime, as the types of scams and modus operandi of scammers are constantly evolving, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Lim Hao Jun from the Criminal Investigation Department's Operation, Investigation Policy and Training Division, told a media briefing on Monday.

  • 815

  • Number of bank accounts linked to scams that have been frozen since the Anti-Scam Centre was set up.

"This explains why, in spite of the police's outreach efforts, more people are still falling prey to scams," said DSP Lim, who is part of the team of officers who helped set up the centre.

"Our previous efforts for enforcement and outreach have prevented an astronomical rise in scams, but we have to continually rethink how to deal with this problem," he added.

As the nerve centre for scam reports, the Anti-Scam Centre will streamline the investigation and prosecution process, and enable the police to intervene as quickly as possible to disrupt scammers' operations, said DSP Lim.

 
 
 
 

This includes working closely with digital platforms such as Carousell to introduce scam prevention measures. The Anti-Scam Centre will also work with telecommunications companies to terminate mobile lines used by scammers, and find "effective measures" to disrupt scammers' operations.

In coming up with the Anti-Scam Centre, the team studied similar bodies set up overseas. While the police did not reveal which are the overseas centres they studied, there are similar set-ups in Canada, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Social media giant Facebook also recently launched a tool for users to report scam ads in Britain.

A physical centre for the Anti-Scam Centre will be officially launched later this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'Police Anti-Scam Centre works with banks to thwart scammers'. Print Edition | Subscribe