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Gladys Tan

Financial Consultant

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An In-Depth Look Into Scams In Singapore & Tips To Avoid Being A Victim

This article is written in collaboration with my teammates from finexis. Special thanks to Candy, Shanice & Caden

Recent reports show that scams are on the rise. Even our friends and clients have unfortunately fallen prey to these scams. It could happen to anyone.

According to National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) chairman, Gerald Singham: "The important thing to know is there is no vaccine for scams. Frankly, the main form of prevention is vigilance by potential victims; you must have your own individual responsibility."

If you think this may not apply to you – think again. The New York Times shared in an article: “Oh yes, young people may be easier targets for scams”. Digital natives in their 20s may think they are immune, but they get swindled more often than older adults in their 70s.

No matter what age group you are in, please read on to familiarise yourself with identifying and protecting yourself against scams.

What is a scam?

A scam is designed to trick you into giving away your money, personal details or data by offering an attractive deal or false information.

What are the types of Scams in Singapore?

Despite warnings about the traps that scammers set, more people in Singapore continue to be cheated, with a spike in online ruses being reported.

Criminals have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation by exploiting the public's fear and sense of uncertainty.

Below is a list of the top 10 scam types in Singapore, with the largest sum cheated being $4.2million under the Impersonation of China officials:

  • E-commerce

  • Social media impersonation

  • Internet love

  • Credit-for-sex

  • Chinese officials impersonation

  • Tech support

  • Banking-related phishing

  • Non-banking-related phishing

  • Loans

  • Investments

People still fall for scams because they don’t start their day thinking something bad will happen. This phenomenon, called the optimism bias, is good for daily life but increases vulnerability to scams.

“Most of us don’t exist with that heightened vigilance - scammers prey on this.”

Scammers also use psychological techniques like social proof, reciprocity and threats to get what they need.

For instance, scammers put themselves on speakerphone to make it sound like they are pleading with a senior official to help other individuals avoid getting arrested. The victim would then get “proof” that others are in the same situation, making the scam more realistic and therefore the victim will give in to the situation.

In other scenarios, scammers make threats, often putting time pressure on a victim to report his whereabouts and transfer cash or risk getting arrested.

Once a victim has started the cash transfers, according to police principal psychologist Carolyn Misirsaid, the victim would likely keep doing it to see the end result. Shame could also prevent them from confiding in friends and family.

Common Scams in Singapore

The best way to protect yourself from scammers is to know how to identify them. Here is a quick summary of two very common scams in Singapore:

#1 Impersonation Scams

The person says your phone number has been linked to a crime, your router has been compromised, there’s a pending court case against you, or that you’ve committed a criminal offence and your assistance is required.

Therefore, unsolicited calls from banks, telcos and other organisations should always be treated with suspicion, especially if they are unable to identify themselves properly.

Impersonation scams are rife on social media too, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. Scammers can hack into victims’ social media accounts or set up fake accounts to impersonate them to request for info from their contacts.

#2 SMS Phishing Scams

Phishing is a way for scammers to obtain confidential information – such as your bank account details, PINs, credit card numbers, One-Time Passwords (OTPs) and login credentials – through the Internet, so they can make unauthorised banking transactions.

Scammers may impersonate us and send SMSes with fake notifications or claims that there are issues with your account.

You may also receive SMSes from other parties that entice you with COVID-19 related campaigns or offers of lucky draws, attractive products, jobs and investment schemes.

Their aim is to get you to click on the link in the SMS. DO NOT do so – the links lead to websites that trick you into providing your Online Banking login credentials, card details or OTPs.

➡️Read more scam stories to familiarise yourself with how scammers are making their way into our society:

Tips To Protect Yourself From Being A Victim of Scams

  • DO NOT click on links provided in suspicious emails and SMSes.

  • Always type a website URL directly into the address bar of the browser you use.

  • End a call if you suspect anything is amiss. If in doubt, call the official hotline number of the company or government agency to verify a call.

  • DO NOT divulge confidential information (e.g. your login credentials or OTPs) to anyone. We will never ask you to reveal your PINs and/or OTPs to us.

  • DO NOT transfer money to people you do not know. When in doubt, get advice from a family member or friend.

  • Consider downloading the ScamShield app to block unsolicited messages and calls (only available on iOS devices) via

  • Join ScamAlert Mailing List or Whatsapp Broadcast/Telegram group to stay alert on the latest scam updates

Stay safe and vigilant. And I hope you remember that before we can learn how to make money, we must first learn how not to lose money - especially to scams.

Disclaimer: The information in this post is purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as personalised financial advice. Please do your own research or speak to a financial advisor accordingly.

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