$500m lost to scams in S'pore: Here's how to protect yourself

Protection methods include installing security software on your devices and securing your network

According to the Singapore Police Force, the total amount cheated for the top 10 scam types increased from $175.2 million in 2020 to $504.4 million in 2021. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

An official-looking email from the Traffic Police lands in your inbox. It alleges that you have committed a traffic offence and you are required to provide personal details to assist in the investigations after clicking the link in the email.

Some would dismiss the email as a scam, but what if you had indeed committed a traffic infringement recently?

If so, the odds of you clicking the link and getting scammed have just increased exponentially.

Watch adorable cats explain how to avoid getting scammed in the video below.

SPH Brightcove Video

Scams on the rise

According to the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) annual crime brief 2021, while there was a decrease in physical crimes, a 52.9 per cent increase in scam cases drove up the total number of reported crimes. Of the scam cases reported, a vast majority (80.4 per cent) were job, e-commerce, investment, loan and banking-related phishing scams.

Even more concerning: The total amount cheated for the top 10 scam types increased from $175.2 million in 2020 to $504.4 million in 2021 – an alarming 288 per cent increase.

The police further caution that “scammers have been constantly evolving their tactics and taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation to prey on the public’s increase in online activities, and also their heightened sense of vulnerability and uncertainty”.

Indeed, modern-day scam tactics have evolved tremendously over the years. 

While we may pride ourselves as savvy users of the Internet in this digital age, scammers have also gotten more creative with their modus operandi and are quick to adapt their schemes to the way we live, work and play online.

Take job scams, which was the top scam type in 2021, for example. The police have observed a ruse where scammers befriend victims on messaging applications such as MiChat and WeChat. These scammers would then introduce the victims to a job commission scheme, in which they could earn a commission by buying and selling movie tickets. Victims were directed to create accounts on a website and asked to top them up to fund the purchase of movie tickets. They would receive commission from ticket sales via the same accounts. But after completing the ‘jobs’, victims would discover that they were unable to withdraw money from their accounts.

Cyber scammers have gotten more creative with their modus operandi and are quick to adapt their schemes to the way we live, work and play online. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Multi-pronged protection

Nevertheless, there are plenty of support systems in place that can enable Singaporeans to go about their daily lives safely and assuredly. And more importantly, help their loved ones do the same.

At the national level, efforts are ongoing to strengthen protection against scams.

For example, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has already worked with mobile operators to add the “+65” prefix to all blacklisted overseas and local calls. According to Singtel, they successfully block an average of 30 million scam calls and 20 million scam SMSes monthly.

IMDA recently also announced that it will require all organisations that use SMS sender IDs to register them with the Singapore SMS Sender ID Registry using their unique entity number. SMS sender IDs are the alphanumeric names that organisations use to identify themselves when sending messages.

According to a recent customer survey by Singtel, 50 per cent of consumers think that they will encounter a security issue while connected to mobile data or home broadband. That is why the telco believes it is essential for Singapore to adopt a 3-Step Security Approach to enhance our protections at the network, device and community levels.

At the network level, Singtel has implemented anti-scam filtering solutions within their mobile networks to filter scam messages before they reach consumers.

Next, we can amp up protection by adopting healthy cyber habits for ourselves and our families. By activating two-factor (2FA) authentication, for instance, an online account will require a passcode that is sent to an email or via SMS to be entered before it can be accessed, thus adding an extra layer of protection. Apps like ScamShield can identify and filter scam messages and block calls.

A two-factor (2FA) authentication provides extra protection by requiring a passcode that is sent to an email or via SMS to be entered before your information can be accessed. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

You can also boost protection for the whole family with software like the newly launched Singtel Broadband Protect and the Security Suite Triple Protect powered by McAfee.

The Singtel Broadband Protect provides network security for all connected smart devices – even your visitors’. It also has the ability to identify and block malicious web pages, thus keeping would-be scammers at bay. Such sites could redirect unsuspecting users to spam pages, or worse, infect your computer with some malware.

The latter, on the other hand, protects mobile devices by defending against the latest malwares, viruses, ransomwares, scams and other online threats, and also includes an Identity Theft Monitoring feature that monitors your online personal information – and alerts you if your data is found as part of a breach. The automated secure VPN offers bank-grade encryption that keeps your credit card and personal data safe on public Wi-Fi and makes online interactions worry-free.

Last but not least, if you are out and about, avoid tapping into unsecured or free public Wi-Fi networks (especially when overseas) and stick to your mobile network – better yet if it’s a Singtel 5G mobile network.

For more information about Singtel's 3-Step Security Approach and Singtel Broadband Protect, visit

In partnership with Singtel

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