Scam victims can easily become prey again: Poll

45% of them were repeat victims over 1-year period; many have poor cyber hygiene practices

Lightning can strike the same place twice for scam victims - a survey has found that they can easily fall prey to scams again after being a victim once.

Forty-five per cent of scam victims said they had been scammed more than once between August 2019 and last September, a survey by the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC) revealed yesterday.

The online survey, conducted between last August and September, polled 4,043 people comprising Singapore citizens and permanent residents. They answered questions on their scam experiences, online practices and perception of scam prevention initiatives, among other things.

Six in 10 respondents said they had encountered scams in Singapore an average of 3.17 times a month.

Seven per cent of respondents said they had fallen prey to scams in the one-year period. Of these, nearly half were aged between 20 and 39.

Ms Whistine Chai, assistant director of the crime, investigation and forensic psychology branch at HTBSC, said: "Young people are more tech savvy and they spend a lot of time online... They might engage in activities, such as online banking or going through social media, that increase their exposure to scammers.

"We also found that young people are likely to be more impulsive and complacent. They (tend) not to stop and think, or check with others before acting."

In its annual crime briefing last week, the Singapore Police Force said the record number of scams reported last year pushed the overall crime rate to its highest since 2009. There were 15,756 reported scams last year, a 65.1 per cent increase from the 9,545 cases in 2019. They made up 42.1 per cent of overall crime last year, up from 27.2 per cent in 2019.

The survey found that the majority of scam victims have poor cyber hygiene practices, as they tend to click on pop-up advertisements on websites, or open e-mails from unknown sources.

Even though over 80 per cent of victims had seen anti-scam public campaigns before, many of them still had a poor understanding of what safe online practices entail.

For instance, 49 per cent of scam victims wrongly believed that the authorities will verify their information by sending them SMS or e-mails with links to click on.

Thirty-seven per cent of victims had the false belief that it is common practice to share passwords or OTPs (one-time passwords).

Scam victims were also found to lack "protective factors" such as knowledge of scam tactics, financial literacy and social support from friends and family.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2021, with the headline 'Scam victims can easily become prey again: Poll'. Subscribe