According to ChatGPT’s data that predates 2021, Singapore has a low incidence of scams compared to other countries, but the scams that do occur often involve sophisticated tactics and target vulnerable individuals. Common types of scams in Singapore include phishing scams, investment scams, impersonation scams, and lottery scams.

Singapore’s Police Force released their latest scam figures on 08 February 2023, and it seems that ChatGPT’s data is outdated.

Rising scam cases in Singapore

Scams in Singapore has over the years become so rampant that it has overtaken most typologies to form a significant proportion of overall crime in 2022. A total of 31,728 scam cases were reported in 2022, an increase of 32.6% compared to 2021. This translates to a total loss of $660.7 million in 2022, and an increase of 4.5% compared to 2021.

In an attempt to battle the menace, the Singapore Police Force has separated scams from its annual crime number statistics. The first time that the national police have ever done so for a particular type of crime.

If we have to give a persona to a scam victim, most of us would probably think of someone who’s past retirement age. But the statistics tell us that this is a myth; more than half (53%) of scam victims were between the age of 20 and 39 years old.

Constantly Evolving and Adapting

The most common types of scams in 2022 include:

  1. Phishing scam (7,097 cases, increase of 41.3%)
  2. Job scam (6,492 cases, increase of 29.9%)
  3. E-Commerce scam (4,762 cases, increase of 74.5%)
  4. Investment scam (3,108 cases, increase of 26.0%)
  5. Fake Friend Call scam (2,106 cases, increase of 207.0%)

What is interesting is that the fake friend call scam only came into play as recently as in 2021, topping the chart at 10th place. Within a year, it has become the fifth-most common types of scams.

Scammers are constantly devising new methods to prey on those of us who are unaware of their latest tactics and their scam methods are constantly evolving to capitalize on the latest innovations in the payment technologies we use.

Scam – A Crime of Concern

According to Singapore’s mainstream media, The Straits Times, scams became a crime of concern in Singapore in 2016, with over 5,300 reported cases. Over the years, initiatives and measures were implemented to provide synergy and resources were streamlined for a more agile response:

2017: Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force set up by the police to collaborate with law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, Macau, and Malaysia to investigate transnational scams

2018: e-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team set up by the police to focus on e-commerce scams

2019: Anti-Scam Centre was set up to investigate scam-related cases

2020: Singapore authorities and the private sector set up the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams (IMCS) to streamline efforts to combat scams.

  • The police and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) launched an anti-scam public education campaign.
  • To further protect Singapore residents, the ScamShield app was launched for iOS users to filter out scam messages and calls (the Android version was launched in 2022)

2021: Police launched the Anti-Scam Division to collaborate with foreign law enforcement agencies and consolidate resources under their Commercial Affairs Department
2022: All scam-fighting units within the Singapore Police Force were consolidated under the Anti-Scam Command (ASCom).

  • Staff from six banks in Singapore are deployed at ASCom to expedite the process of identifying and freezing fraudulent transactions and accounts
  • The anti-scam campaign was refreshed to further educate the public about scams. The Infocomm Media Development Authority keeps an SMS Sender ID Registry and requires organisations to sign up to this registry; numbers not in the registry will appear as ‘Likely Scam’ when seen by recipients

Safeguarding/Mitigating Losses – A Shared Responsibility

Singapore’s central bank, The Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Association of Banks in Singapore announced additional measures in 2022 to safeguard customers from digital banking scams such as:

  • Requiring additional customer confirmations to process significant changes to customer accounts and other high-risk transactions identified through fraud surveillance.
  • The default transaction limit for online funds transfers set to S$5,000 or lower.
  • Emergency self-service “kill switch” for customers to suspend their accounts quickly if they suspect their bank accounts have been compromised.
  • Rapid account freezing and fund recovery operations by co-locating bank staff at the SPF Anti-Scam Centre.
  • Enhancing fraud surveillance systems to take into account a broader range of scam scenarios.

Working towards a safer digital future requires both the banks and consumers to work together. The announcement also highlighted the vital role consumers play in the fight against scams, encouraging them to:

  • Use mobile banking apps to minimize the risk of navigating to fraudulent websites.
  • Keep informed of scam advisories and alerts put out by SPF, National Crime Prevention Council, MAS and banks.
  • Refer to official sources, such as the MAS Financial Institution Directory and cards (e.g., ATM or credit cards) issued by banks, for hotline numbers and website addresses to communicate with banks.
  • Move towards greater use of bank apps for banking needs and receiving notifications by turning on in-app notifications on their devices.
  • Never divulge internet banking credentials or passwords to anyone.

Outsmarting the criminals

With the rise in scam losses not only in Singapore but around the world, banks will need to have a robust scams model to monitor real-time customer data to detect suspicious activities with high accuracy and low false-positive rates in order to better protect consumers while optimizing internal resources.

Gone are the days where rule-based models are good enough; if criminals are constantly evolving and adapting, levelling the playing field using technology to augment their scam tactics, banks will need to review their risk management strategies to ensure they are deploying technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to outsmart the scammers.