SINGAPORE - Singaporeans must take active steps in the fight against scams because anyone can fall prey to them and the consequences can be dire, Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said on Wednesday.
She said: “Scams present a significant challenge to all law and enforcement agencies across the world.
“What this means is that we cannot rely on enforcement alone. The best defence against scams is becoming an aware, watchful and discerning public, who will protect ourselves and also act to protect others against scams.”
She was speaking at the second edition of the anti-scam seminar held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, as well as virtually via live stream.
Titled Scaminar! ACT Against Scams, the event was jointly organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Singapore Police Force and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), in partnership with The Straits Times.
Ms Sun, who is the chairman of the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams and guest of honour at the event, also launched the ninth edition of the anti-scam campaign by the NCPC, with the refreshed tagline “I can ACT against scams”.
The ACT acronym in the new campaign tagline outlines how members of the public can Add security features, Check for signs, and Tell the authorities and others about scams.
Because of the growing threat of scams, the latest initiative is needed to galvanise the public into action, said Ms Sun.
She added: “Based on the National Prevalence Survey of Scams in 2020, we realised that while most people know about scams, they may not be aware of the specific measures that they can take to protect themselves from scams.
“We want to bridge this awareness-action gap, by promoting the ACT framework of Add, Check and Tell.”
About 1,000 people from the community, industry players and government agency partners participated in the event.
The national anti-scam campaign was launched in 2014 with the setting up of the scamalert.sg website.
Its aim then was to raise public awareness specifically about cyberscams, with 504 cases of e-commerce cheating cases recorded in the first half of that year.
But the number and types of scams have rocketed over the years, with more than 5,300 cases reported in 2016. That was when the authorities began tracking scams and identifying them as a crime of concern.
By the end of 2016, the NCPC had set up an anti-scam helpline as part of the third edition of the campaign to help fight rapidly evolving scams.
In 2020, there were more than 7,200 scams reported in the first half of that year.
This year’s edition of the campaign focuses on getting the public to take action in the fight against scams, by taking active steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.
The refreshed tagline comes after a total of $346.5 million was lost to scams in the first half of 2022, which is more than half of the $633.3 million lost in the whole of 2021.
Ms Sun said that with difficult economic conditions worldwide, more scams are to be expected.
She added that anyone can fall prey to scams.
She stressed to the audience that job scams are becoming an area of concern and that she herself received job scam messages recently.
There were more than 3,500 cases of job scams reported and more than $58 million lost to such scams in the first half of 2022, making it the top scam here, according to the most recent statistics available.
Ms Sun said: “Some of us may think that only selected segments of our population are a target of scams. Some of us think it is only senior citizens who fall prey to scams. This is not true – the statistics tell us that everyone is vulnerable to scams.”
She also warned that scams can have dire consequences on victims and their loved ones, impacting them beyond just financial losses.
ST previously reported on how there have been instances here where scam victims have turned to suicide and self-harm.
Ms Sun urged the public to take heed of such stories.
“These scam cases reported in the media are not just another story,” she said.
“The victims involved are someone else’s family member, a loved one, a friend, a relative. In fact, the next scam victim could be your loved ones, yourself or potentially even myself. Anyone can be a scam victim.”
Mr Gerald Singham, chairman of the NCPC, closed the event by urging participants to take action and protect their loved ones.
“This new campaign goes beyond knowing how to spot scam signs, and we all have a responsibility to reach out to those around us before scammers get to them,” he said.
He added that the fight against scams will continue to evolve, but that the authorities, industry players and community must continue fighting.
He said: “There will always be new modalities, new functionalities, and it will always be a work in progress... We must press ahead to find new solutions to combat them.”
What is ACT?
ACT outlines three actions individuals should take to safeguard themselves and the community against scams.
- Add security features such as ScamShield and two-factor authentication for personal accounts. Also, set up transaction limits for Internet banking, to limit the amount of funds possibly lost in the event of a scam.
- Check for potential signs of a scam by asking questions, fact-checking requests for personal information and money transfers, and verifying the legitimacy of online listings and reviews. Take the time to pause and check. If it is too good to be true, it is probably untrue, and a scam.
- Tell the authorities and others about scam encounters by reporting to the bank, ScamShield, or by filing a police report. Tell others about ongoing scams and preventive steps they can take.
Top 10 scams
There were 14,349 scam cases reported in the first half of 2022, with a total of $346.5 million lost, of which $227.8 million was lost to the top 10 types of scams.
Both the number of cases and total amount lost were more than half of the 23,931 cases reported and $633.3 million lost in the whole of 2021.
The top 10 scams for the first half of 2022 were:
- Social media impersonation
- Fake friend call
- Internet love
- Credit for sex
- Fake gambling platforms
- Anti-Scam Hotline 1800-722-6688
- Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline 6389-2222
- Samaritans of Singapore 1-767
- Singapore Association for Mental Health 1800-283-7019
- Silver Ribbon Singapore 6386-1928
- Tinkle Friend (7-12 years) 1800-2744-788
- TOUCHline (Counselling) 1800-377-2252
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin) 1800-353-5800