Ho Ching warns against scam ads that 'make up fake breathtaking quotes from me'

A bogus report masquerading as one by The Straits Times. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM IRMAALANIZ.COM

SINGAPORE - OCBC Bank "called" to stop Temasek chief executive Ho Ching from giving out money-making secrets during an interview, claims a fake article for a "cryptocurrency trading programme" linked in a Facebook advertisement.

If that does not raise enough red flags, the bogus report, masquerading as one by The Straits Times, also says that "Ho Ching urged everyone in Singapore to jump on this amazing opportunity before the big banks shut it down for good".

Plastered across the report are the logos and mast heads of media outlets such as The New Paper, The Business Times, Today, The Independent Singapore and Singapore Business Review.

Such fake articles promoted by fake ads on Facebook have been circulating for months now, despite attempts by the social media platform to remove them. Having cited Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as its "endorser" in August, the investment scam has now moved on to Mr Lee's wife, Ms Ho Ching.

Early on Tuesday morning (Nov 26), Ms Ho warned Facebook users of the fake reports using her name and that of others.

Riding on the popularity of international stars and personalities in Singapore, these ads aim at fooling the public into putting their money into various bogus schemes.

A check by ST on Tuesday found similar fake ads also targeting Mediacorp actors Bryan Wong and Zoe Tay, with each urging readers to take advantage of the rare get-rich-quick opportunity by registering on the site with their personal details, including name, e-mail address and credit card details.

The fake ads promoting the bogus articles are often linked to Facebook accounts that appear to have nothing to do with the subject matter, with names that do not appear to be in English, and generic profile pictures.

On Tuesday, Ms Ho warned on Facebook about the fake articles resurfacing. "Just to alert everyone that there have been some more fat frogs jumping in the streets!"

The fake articles were "masquerading as breathless news", she said, and were using "my name and making up fake breathtaking quotes from me and others".

Ms Ho urged Facebook users to report the scams to social media channels they might see them on, such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

A Temasek spokesman told ST: "These are not new scams - they've been around a long time and have targeted many high profile individuals, not just Ho Ching.

"At the end of the day, people need to be aware before committing to anything they see online endorsed by anyone with a public profile."

Between September and November last year, victims lost about $78,000 to similar misleading online articles that promoted investments in bitcoin.

Variations of the ad have seen the unauthorised use of the names and images of billionaire Peter Lim and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In September, Facebook also took down similar ads involving billionaire Lim Oon Kuin - Forbes' 18th richest person in Singapore - after ST alerted the site to the fake ad.

Facebook said then that it had disabled the associated accounts of the fabricated articles but the latest ads and their associated Facebook accounts suggest the scams have simply made a comeback under a slightly different guise.

A Facebook spokesman told ST on Tuesday that it does not allow these scams and takes swift action to remove them as soon as it becomes aware.

"These scammers use sophisticated cloaking technology to mask content so that it shows different versions to our ad review systems than it does to people. This is a clear violation of our policies as ads must not use tactics intended to circumvent our ad review process or other enforcement systems. We have removed the ads and disabled the associated pages and ad accounts."

The spokesman added: "We encourage our community to report ads they believe are misleading as this information helps us improve our automated detection systems to counter cloaking tactics and make us better."

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•Reports published can be found on the ST website under a special "fake news debunked" section at http://str.sg/fake-news

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