Reader: If only Bill Gates was that giving.
Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably fake.
I really wouldn’t mind the free charity though.
E-mails Posing as the IRAS
On Friday (21 Jan), the Inland Revenue of Singapore (IRAS) issued a warning concerning a scam e-mail where recipients are told to buy an “approval pass” to receive funds from the billionaire Bill Gates.
The e-mail is supposedly from the IRAS, signed off in the name of the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Mr Ng Wai Choong.
You have to give props where they are due; when it comes to scams, scammers are really getting creative with them.
The e-mail will continue to inform the recipients that their bank accounts have been blocked from receiving an unverified international funds transfer of $20 million from Bill Gates, the co-founder of the software giant Microsoft.
Yes, Bill Gates does own a charity foundation named after him and his former wife Melinda that is dedicated to philanthropic work, but I can assure you single-person donations to arbitrary members of the Singaporean public is not one of them.
Afterwards, the recipient would be instructed to obtain a letter of confirmation from the “The Bill Gate Foundation” or buy an “international approval pass” to enable the transfer.
… I hope I’m not the only one who noticed this discrepancy, but the scammers couldn’t even be bothered to put an ‘s’ to the end of Bill Gates.
Perhaps hiring a proof-reader is in order?
Essentially, it’s the same song and dance as every other scam: the purported e-mail and/or call will usually try to gain access to your credit card or bank account information under some sort of guise, before eventually extracting the money out of your bank account instead.
For the scammers, it’s merely a game of numbers; preying on the small number of gullible victims that are likely to fall for such a scam.
Hence, IRAS advises the public to ignore any and all scam e-mails.
The tax authority stated: “Please do not respond, provide any personal details, make any payments or follow any instructions by the sender.”
Those who have done so are advised to report it to the police immediately.
Not the First Time, Won’t be the Last
This latest scam came after the OCBC making goodwill pay-outs scam, wherein nearly 470 customers lost at least $8 million in total last month due to the SMS phishing scams.
Those victims were luckier than most because the bank was at least willing to return them the money that they lost. Others who might have fallen for similar scams aren’t as fortunate.
In light of this scam, local banks have been told by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to remove clickable links from e-mails or SMS messages sent to its users, and to set the threshold for fund transfer notifications to $100 or lower by default.
Another notable scam occurred in November last year, where the documents attached to the e-mail may have contained computer viruses.
The e-mail was sent from the “Singapore Government Tax Authority”, whilst claiming that the recipients had unpaid taxes.
Pro-tip for any reader: Always open up the e-mail information which states which e-mail address it is from and check the e-mail address carefully.
Chances are, you will spot a mistake, like lacking an official mark of ‘gov.sg’, or it’s just a garble of nonsense that doesn’t look official at all.
Last May, there was another scam e-mail as well: the scammers write that they have received full payment of a tax evasion penalty from the recipient. The recipient will then be required to open a new bank account or reply to the e-mail sender with their bank details.
You’re sensing a pattern here, right?
Seriously, the list goes on.
There are scam e-mails about Amazon purchase refunds or Fedex goods getting stuck in the middle of the delivery, scams concerning Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ subscriptions, or even warnings of your Apple account being frozen or misused when you’ve always been an Android user.
Better yet, you will receive abrupt messages from a kindly and enthusiastic stranger you’ve never met, who will tell you that they’re in desperate need of money due to some dire situation later down the road, trying to garner your sympathy (money) before they disappear faster than the speed of light.
Anything that sounds feasible, the scammers will and have tried it.
IRAS’ Parting Words
Lastly, the IRAS would like to reiterate that they do not send taxpayers’ payment statements and tax notices through e-mail.
The IRAS does not make calls to the taxpayers through messaging platforms like WhatsApp.
They have the numbers to your home, personal mobile, and office, why would they need to contact you through WhatsApp or Telegram of all things?
Furthermore, the authorities will never request taxpayers to open a new bank account, nor verify credit card or bank account details over the phone.
In summary: do not divulge your personal and security details to anyone, unless you are absolutely certain it is a trusted source, or at the location itself.
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Featured Image: Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
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