Last December, there were at least 120 unfortunate victims of a scam involving the impersonation of government officials. Their losses amounted to a hefty S$13.3 million, of which, $488,000 were from CPF savings.
In a joint advisory by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB), details of the scam and what you can and should do to protect yourself were released.
Here’s what you need to know.
How the Scam Works
Victims would receive calls from scammers impersonating bank officers, probing into “suspicious banking transactions” that they supposedly made.
The confused victims would then deny making such transactions or possessing such bank cards. Exploiting the panic, the scammer then redirects the call to another scammer, who also claims to be a government official.
This second scammer would accuse the victim of being involved in criminal activities such as fraud or money laundering.
Even more confused now, victims would then comply with the instructions of the scammer to transfer their money into purported “security accounts”, controlled by the “authorities”, to aid the investigation into the matter. Some of these scammers even brazenly requested for the victims’ sensitive banking credentials, credit card details, or One-Time Passwords (OTPs).
And the victims would only realise that they had been scammed when the scammers become uncontactable or when they clarified their situation with the banks or with SPF through official channels.
Kudos to the scammers for crafting such a convincing and panic-inducing multi-level scam.
It doesn’t help that Singapore is a big target for scammers; watch this to the end and you’d understand:
There Are Safeguards Implemented Recently
The CPF Board has implemented a suite of security measures last November to reduce the losses from scams.
CPF also imposed a daily limit of S$2,000 for CPF withdrawals in case of a scam. This limit has been applied from 30 November 2023 to all CPF members aged 55 and above.
If you’re confident of not falling prey to a scam, you can increase the daily withdrawal limit. But it requires your Singpass face verification and a 12-hour cooling period to prevent unauthorised adjustments.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you think you’re particularly vulnerable to the tricks and lies of scammers, you now have the option to disable online withdrawals altogether. This can be done by activating the CPF withdrawal lock, which instantly sets the daily withdrawal limit to S$0. Once activated, withdrawals can only be made in person at CPF service centres.
CPF has also put in place more precautionary measures, such as mandating Singpass face verification and the 12-hour cooling period when members update both their bank details and contact details, effective as of end December
Furthermore, every time you make a withdrawal, update your daily limit, change your contact or bank account details, you will receive a notification or email confirming your action.
Creating new bank accounts won’t be as easy either. Now, new bank accounts will only be activated after the bank confirms that the account belongs to a CPF member. This process may take up to two working days.
These rounds and rounds of verification may seem like a chore, but it’s a small price to pay for enhanced security.
Remain Cognisant of the Latest Scams
Most importantly, despite all the security measures, members of the public have to remain alert and cognisant of the latest scam tactics.
The SPF and CPFB have stressed that they will never ask members of the public over the phone to (i) transfer monies to them, or (ii) provide their banking credentials or CPF-related information.
A call asking for your sensitive banking information or for money to be transferred out of your account is most likely a scam.
And no matter how confusing and scary the situation over the phone seems, it is important not to be pressured by the caller to act impulsively. Instead, verify the situation through official government channels or your bank.
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