Scammers – the first group of professionals to work from home before it became trendy.
In addition to e-commerce scams and online banking scams, thanks to dating apps, you now have scams that look like this:
Scammer: Would you like to engage in some hanky panky?
Victim: I’d love to, but please stop calling it hanky panky.
Scammer: Sure, but before we get down to it, I’ll need $10,000
Victim: What? What for?
Scammer: My dog needs an operation. I’ll give it back, I promise.
Victim: I’m not sure…
Scammer: *sends nudes*
Victim: What’s your bank account number?
The Covid-19 pandemic has robbed people of their livelihoods, but scammers seem stronger than ever.
With everyone staying at home and using their phones more than usual, it’s no surprise that scams are on the rise, and residents are losing more money.
Over $52 Million Scammed in S’pore in a Year, but 40% of Them Were Recovered
The Anti-Scam Centre of the Singapore Police Force has received more than 8,600 reports of scams in a year, where victims lost a total of $52 million.
It was set up on 18 June last year as a nerve centre for investigating scam-related crimes, according to TODAYonline.
The centre’s objective is to disrupt scammers’ operations and help mitigate victims’ losses, the police said.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The authorities managed to recover around 40% of the $52 million lost by victims, amounting to more than S$21.2 million.
In one case, where a French pharmaceutical company was duped out of S$10.2 million, the Anti-Scam centre managed to retrieve over S$6.4 million.
The French company had been deceived into transferring money to a Singapore bank account as payment for a large supply of surgical masks and hand sanitiser.
Yes, we now have coronavirus-themed scams.
How They Operate
One of the Anti-Scam Centre’s biggest weapons against scammers is freezing bank accounts.
In the past, banks could take up to two weeks to two months to get back to the police on requests such as freezing of bank accounts, reported CNA.
That worked out well for the scammers, of course, as the money kept flowing in.
But now, after partnering with 11 banks, the centre can freeze scam-related bank accounts within days of notification.
In fact, it can even intercept and recover transferred money within the day of its transfer.
According to TODAYonline, the centre froze more than 6,100 bank accounts since 18 June last year.
They also utilise new technology to detect scam trends across the country, and aim to raise awareness of scams through public education.
How To Avoid a Scam
Scams come in various forms, and some are harder to spot than others.
Here are some signs of a traditional scam:
- Use of urgent or threatening language – Be wary of emails with phrases such as ‘urgent action required’ or ‘your account will be terminated’. These criminals are trying to make you panic so you’ll provide confidential information.
- Promises of attractive rewards – Scammers will try to entice you by offering amazing deals or unbelievable prizes for doing a small thing, like clicking on a pop-up or completing an online survey to win a trip to Europe.
- Requests for confidential information – Most organisations will never ask for your personal information such as NRIC, login credentials, and credit card details to be sent over the Internet. . Never give out personal banking information and always call your bank to clarify if you receive such a call.
As for credit-for-sex scams and romance scams, the telltale signs are a little different:
- Friend requests from strangers on Facebook, WeChat, and iAround, especially if they are offering escort, massage, or sexual services
- They profess strong feelings for you quickly after befriending you and want to chat with you privately
- Poorly written messages. Some might even refer to you by the wrong name
- Repeated requests for favours or money
The best way to spot a scam is to understand that scammers always want something from you, whether it’s personal information or banking information.
For instance, if a guy impersonates your friend Ah Hock and just calls to say hi and ask how you’re doing, there’s no issue there, aside from his lack of friends.
But if fake Ah Hock says he’s from DBS Bank and needs your banking information, credit card details, and one-time password (OTP), then you should recognise that he’s trying to scam you (You’ll probably also understand why he doesn’t have friends).
And if a sweet man or woman constantly professes their love for you for six months, but then asks you for a little money, alarm bells and not wedding bells should be going off in your head.
Scammers are getting more crafty every year. We need to keep up.
You can also watch these videos we’ve done in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force to know more about scams (also, do subscribe to our YouTube channel for more of such videos!):