Police warn of increase in banking-related phishing scams; victims lose $114,000

In one of these scams, victims would receive phone calls from people pretending to be bank employees. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - At least 28 people have fallen prey to banking-related phishing scams since last month, losing at least $114,000.

The police on Sunday (June 5) warned of an increase in phishing scams where swindlers impersonate bank staff and target victims through phone calls or SMS messages.

In one of these scams, victims would receive phone calls from people pretending to be bank employees.

The caller would request for the victims' personal details, like their Internet banking username and password, under the pretext that the bank needed them to verify transactions in the victims' account.

In other cases, the caller said the victim was under investigation for transferring large sums of money to another bank.

After the victims provided their details, they would receive one-time passwords (OTPs) on their mobile phones. The callers would then ask the victims for the OTPs.

In another type of scam, victims would get unsolicited SMS messages claiming that their debit or credit card had been blocked due to unusual activities.

Other messages said the victims' bank account had been frozen as the "bank account was unusual".

The SMS would direct victims to click on a link, which was a spoofed Internet banking log-in page where they would furnish their online banking username and password.

Then, the victims would be redirected to another spoofed webpage where they were asked to key in the OTPs received on their mobile phones.

"Victims of both variants will only discover that they had been scammed when they were notified of unauthorised transactions made from their bank accounts," the police said.

More measures to stop digital banking scams will be introduced by Oct 31, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Association of Banks in Singapore announced on Thursday (June 2).

For instance, an emergency self-service “kill switch” that lets customers freeze their bank accounts if they suspect that their accounts have been compromised will be introduced.

Victims would get unsolicited SMS messages claiming that their debit or credit card had been blocked. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

Another measure is having the default transaction limit for online fund transfers set to $5,000 or lower a day.

Banks will also facilitate rapid account freezing and fund recovery operations by co-locating bank staff at the Singapore Police Force Anti-Scam Centre.

The police advise the public to always verify the authenticity of claims of problems with their bank accounts or cards issued by the bank with the official bank website or sources, and report any fraudulent transactions to their bank immediately.

"Do not click on dubious URL links provided in unsolicited text messages. Banks do not send SMSes containing links," they added.

Those with information related to such crimes can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit it at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness

The police advise the public to call 999 if they require urgent assistance.

More scam-related advice can be found at this website or via the anti-scam hotline on 1800-722-6688.

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