Police partner over 20 financial institutions to freeze scammers' bank accounts within a day

E-commerce scams saw a 19.1 per cent jump to 3,354 reported cases compared with 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The police have partnered more than 20 financial institutions that will move to freeze most bank accounts suspected to be linked to scammers within a day in a bid to minimise losses to victims and tackle the ongoing scourge of scams.

This initiative - named Project Frontier (Funds Recovery Operations and Networks Team, Inspiring Effective Resolutions) - has reduced the time needed to freeze such bank accounts from 14 to 60 working days previously, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan on Monday (March 1).

"I've asked banks if we can work together to further compress the turnaround time for freezing of banks accounts used by scammers so that even less is lost to scams," he added.

Speaking during the debate on the Home Affairs Ministry's (MHA) budget, Mr Tan added that the Association of Banks in Singapore and its members also have worked with the police and Monetary Authority of Singapore to detect and weed out scammers and money mules.

The inter-ministry committee on scams that Mr Tan chairs also works with telcos and the Infocomm Media Development Authority to block spoof calls and scam websites used by scammers abroad, he said.

It is also working with online platforms to tackle e-commerce scams, for instance, by possibly improving seller verification, he added.

This comes after last year saw a record high number of scams detected, climbing 65.1 per cent from 2019. The 15,756 reported cases of scams pushed the overall crime rate to its highest since 2009, according to figures released by the police last month.

If scams were excluded, the total number of crimes in 2020 would have decreased by 15.3 per cent to 21,653, from 25,570 in 2019.

E-commerce scams, the most commonly reported type of scam last year, saw a 19.1 per cent jump to 3,354 reported cases compared with 2019.

Responding to Nominated MP Raj Joshua Thomas on security officers being subjected to verbal and physical abuse, Mr Tan said the Private Security Industry Act will be amended to include new offences to tackle the issue.

"These offences will also carry harsher punishments, or penalties compared to similar offences against the general public," he said, adding that the MHA will continue supporting public education efforts like the industry-led anti-abuse campaign.

The ministry will also work with the industry to equip security officers with better public management skills and encourage the use of body cameras to deter abuse, he said.

On how the ministry intends to use the new Security Agencies Competency Evaluation framework, Mr Tan said a key assessment area under the new framework will involve how much security agencies use technology to augment critical areas such as training, operations and command, control and communications.

"This will set new benchmarks for the industry," he added.

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