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5 Most Common Scams In 2023 And How To Protect Yourself

Follow three simple steps: Add, check, and tell.

Impersonation, e-commerce, job, phishing and investment scams are five of the most common scams as of August 2023, according to the Singapore Police Force (SPF).  

Due to the proliferation of scams, most of us have the habit (sometimes bad) of hanging up on unknown numbers, blocking and deleting text messages from unknown people. However, scammers are getting smarter by the day, and it is getting easier for one to fall prey. From June to July 2023 alone, there have been more than 1,200 scam cases uncovered by SPF. This is one quarter of the total e-commerce scams reported in ScamAlert as of December 2022 which projects a higher probability of 2023 having an increase in number of scams.

Scammers may pose as a long-lost friend, government officials or stockbrokers and bait you to spill your personal details. There are also scammers that spam text messaging platforms with seemingly attractive job offers. With concerts being all the rave currently, scammers are taking advantage of resale platforms to sell concert tickets at too good to be true prices. As a result of these scams, millions of dollars have been lost from personal bank accounts.

Scam Type  Money lost according to SPF (as of 2022) 
E-commerce  $21.3 million 
Impersonation   $8.8 million 
Job  $117.4 million 
Investment  $198.3 million  
Phishing  $16.5 million 

The SPF, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) have outlined a three-step scam prevention measure in January 2023. Named, ‘ACT’, this measure features three simple steps: add, check and tell. It is aimed towards educating Singaporeans on the steps they should take if they encounter a scam.  

Here is how you can implement ACT when you encounter scams.  

Read Also: Valentine’s Date Goes Bad: 3 Ways We Can Spot A Love Scammer

A – Adding ScamShield And Reliable Security Features

The first step of ACT, is add. You must be wondering add. Well, add the ScamShield app and other reliable security features. Launched in November 2020, the ScamShield app blocks scam numbers and filters scam messages into junk folders on your mobile devices. The app does not require you to share your mobile number, location, contact list or any other personal details, reducing the risk of scammers invading the privacy of the user. The application is available on both Play Store and App Store.

You can also report cases of scam calls and upload scam messages on the app to help take action against scammers. This would also help the app update its database on new scam methods implemented. Contrary to popular belief, majority of scam victims are between the ages of 20 to 39 years old as of 2022 according to SPF. Unlike seniors who are less digital savvy, the app will be easier to comprehend for the age group most scam victims fall under.

Besides downloading the ScamShield app, it is also highly recommended for you to set up additional authentication methods such as Two-factor authentication for your social media accounts and data. This method requires two forms of identification before one is able to access their relevant data. Another way to safeguard your privacy would be to add privacy settings to relevant messaging and social media platforms. This limits unknown persons from viewing and contacting you online.

Another recommendation is to lower your bank account transaction limits to reduce potential losses. It is also safter to use a digital bank app to carry out transactions and always monitor transactions to check for any unauthorised transactions.  

Having a strong password also makes it harder for scammers to crack your personal firewall and access your data. Here are some tips you can follow to set up an easy-to-remember, strong password:

  • Contains at least 12 characters (some websites require more)
  • Use five different words that relate to a memory that is unique to you
  • Use a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols
  • Run it through a password checker here.

Read Also: What Is The ScamShield App And How You Can Use It Today To Protect Yourself And Your Loved One From Being Scammed

C – Checking The Telltale Signs For The Top 5 Scams Of 2023 

The next step of ACT is check. If you are unsure if the situation you are dealing with is a scam, do check for scam signs verified by official sources.  

For instance, if you are unsure if a job offer is real, check against the company’s official website to verify the job offer. It is also important to resist acting on impulse and take the extra step to decipher if the certain request, order or instruction seem suspicious or too good to be true. If you feel unsure, it is best to delay responding until you gain the confirmation that it may or may not be a potential scam.

As a resource, here are official sources you may check scam signs and trends with when you encounter a potential scam:
Singapore Police Force
Scam Alert
Cyber Security Agency of Singapore
National Crime Prevention Council 

#1 E-commerce Scams

E-commerce scam victims are usually scammed by making online purchases on ‘too good to be true’ products. In recent cases, advertisements for concert tickets have been circulating around e-commerce platforms and social media platforms such as Carousell, Facebook, Telegram and Twitter.

After hooking in victims with these advertisements, scammers would provide fake screenshots or pictures of fake tickets to the victims as proof of authenticity. Thereafter, they would urge victims to make their purchase quickly under the false pretence that the ‘tickets’ are limited in quantity or unable to be held on for a long period. Usually, payments are made via credit card or digibank transfers. However, in other forms of e-commerce scams, cash payment is requested for items you may not have purchases or cheap replicas.

Scammers may also request for additional sums of money by citing false reasons which goes along the lines of them not receiving any payment. Ultimately, the tickets would not arrive or are invalid and scammers would then become uncontactable. To be wary of e-commerce scams, here are some signs you can look out for and ways you can protect yourself according to Scam Alert.

Signs To Check: 

  • Be wary of too good to be true deals: For example, “one-time-only”, flash deals which often go way below market value.
  • Scammer omits information: Scammers do not provide much information on their products. Their terms and conditions are often unstated as well.
  • Scammer tries to take conversation off main platform: Scammers may try to shift the conversation off platforms to avoid detection. For instance, switching for text channels to calls.
  • Payments via bank transfer: E-commerce scammers often request for payment via a direct bank transfer. If offer is refused, they may throw in a discount to sway you into agreeing.
  • Request for extra payments: Scammers may throw in additional fees such as admin or freight charges.  

Ways To Protect Yourself 

  • Where possible, always transact within the platform’s secure payment method. If not possible, insist on cash-on-delivery.
  • Choose reputable sellers or shopping platforms with good reviews, consumer protection and return policies for high value items.
  • Check terms and conditions and ensure fees are stated upfront.
  • Understand GST and Duty: Additional fees such as GST may be levied on goods that exceed a certain value ($400) 
  • Check platform’s Transactions Safety Ratings (TSR), which measures the level of safety features an e-commerce marketplace has implemented. The SPF has also consolidated a list of scam platforms and their moniker for citizens to look out for.  

#2 Impersonation Scams

In recent cases, many have fall victim to the “fake friend call” scam. This scam falls under the umbrella term of impersonation scams. In this case, the fake friend in question would not reveal their identity and instead would ask victims to guess their identities. Once victims reveal a name, the scammer would ask for their numbers to be saved and thereafter call again on a later date to request for money under a fake reasoning. For instance, a sudden hospitalisation of a family member etc.

Besides impersonating a friend or a loved one, impersonation scams also extend to impersonating business owners or local government officials. These scammers would then use their fake aliases to derive personal information from victims. This includes account passwords or one-time passwords (OTP).

Signs To Check:   

  • Requests for personal details: legitimate banks and government officials will never request for bank transfers or other confidential information over a call or message. This also applies to courier companies, telcos, e-commerce platforms.
  • Uses scare tactics: scammer gaslights you to believe that you have committed an offence, have a pending court case or account issues. They threaten to escalate the situation to higher authorities if there is no cooperation.
  • Numbers with the ‘+’ prefix: take note if the call you received is from a known source and country. Not all numbers with the ‘+’ prefix are from Singapore. 
  • Unsolicited phone calls or messages: unexpected calls or messages from persons you have not contacted before. The person is also unable to identify themselves and provide specific information of the information but presses for your personal information.  

Ways To Protect Yourself: 

  • Unless you are expecting a call from overseas, do not accept calls with foreign numbers.
  • Do not disclose any confidential information to anyone without proper verification.
  • Hang up immediately if the caller is unable to provide a name if asked to be identified. Verify the authenticity of information or request through official sources such as websites, apps, email or through hotlines.
  • Do not click on suspicious URLS in messages and emails. 

#3 Job Scams

Another top scam of 2023 are job scams. These scams usually appear on messaging platforms such as Whatsapp and Telegram or social media platforms. Somewhat like impersonation scams, scammers would pose as potential employees offering a high pay, low commitment job that seems too good to be true. So far, ScamAlert has identified four types of job offers.

Affiliate Marketing job offers that often request for advance payments for products to boost sales in return for commission.

Job offers through “agents” requires victims to process fund transfers through specific money transferring services like Western Union or MoneyGram.

Job offers for “assistant purchaser”, “stock takers” or “trial participant” may be asked to reveal personal details such as name, identity card number, one-time passwords and more.

“Male Social Escort” job offers promise introductions to wealthy female clients. However, a registration fee is required to be paid upfront along with

Other variants of this scam include scammers asking victims to boost the value of cryptocurrencies or to rate applications to boost their reviews. To perform such tasks, victims would be advised

Signs To Check:   

  • Request for payment upfront: scammers may ask victims to open an account through an unverified app or website or sign up for a paid membership before they begin their ‘jobs’. Scammers may even go as far as to offer commission for the first few occasions to build credibility.
  • High pay, low investment: too good to be true job offers that promises high returns for minimal effort are usually scams.
  • Unsolicited job offers on social media or messaging apps: scammers may claim that they are from legitimate recruitment companies or organisations on messaging platforms such as Telegram. Once a victim expresses interest in the offer, they will be added to a group chat where they’ll be shown testimonials and cases of success to prove that the company is legitimate.
  • Vague job descriptions: specific job descriptions are not given, and scammers do not communicate via an official organisation’s email address.
  • Request for personal information: scammers may ask for personal, bank details, advance payments or request for you to download unverified apps before starting your “jobs”.

Ways To Protect Yourself 

  • Do not respond to dubious job offers and verify the authenticity of the offer with the legitimate hiring company by emailing the HR department.
  • Do not allow your employers to use your bank account for transactions. This may be considered as money laundering.
  • Do not download unverified apps from unknown sources when applying for a job.

#4 Investment Scams

Investment scammers usually impersonate stockbrokers, banks or financial company employees on social media platforms like Facebook. After reaching out to potential victims, they request for personal details such as NRIC details, passport numbers so that they could fill up an investment form. Then comes the request for bank transfers for hefty administrative, security fees and taxes so that the victim can “earn” profits and returns.

Besides texting through messaging or social media platforms, scammers may also reach out via phone calls and impersonate overseas monetary authorities requesting for a deposit before profits can be issued. Some other variants of this scam include investing in cryptocurrencies through the request of an online friend.

Signs To Check:   

  • Binary options: a binary option is a type of financial derivative in which the payout of depends on the outcome of a yes or no proposition. Online trading platforms that offer these are usually fraudulent. 
  • High returns: be wary of unrealistically high investment returns that seem too good to be true. 
  • Unfamiliar entities: be aware and look out for unfamiliar platforms or entities based outside of Singapore.  

Ways To Protect Yourself 

  • Check with a licensed financial advisor: before making any investments, do some research on the company and its representatives with official resources. This includes the Financial Institution’s Directory, Register or Representatives, and Investor Alert List. All of these official resources can be found in the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) website. 
  • Understand investment risks: high returns come with high risks. When dealing with unregulated entities, there will be little recourse if situations take a wrong turn. It is also recommended to check if overseas authority is regulated.  
  • Never give out personal information.
  • Be wary of strangers: especially those who offer get rich quick schemes on social media platforms.

#5 Phishing Scam

With the heavy reliance on technology in today’s world, scammers are taking advantage and are creating fake websites to lure victims into completing unsolicited requests. Victims usually receive a call, text or email requesting for their personal information. Scammers make up false claims such as prize claims, securing online accounts or to help investigate fraudulent transactions to lead victims to click on an URL leading to a fake website.

In another variant, the victims themselves may come across an advertisement posted on social media platforms offering a too good to be true deals. After clicking on such advertisements or contacting the scammer via a messaging platform, they will be redirected to a fake website. To make a purchase, victims will have to provide their personal details and process an unauthorised transaction to the scammer.

To build credibility, scammers will contact victims after the unauthorised transaction has been made. By introducing themselves as bank staff investigating fraudulent transactions, the scammer would prompt the victim to download the fake “ScamShield” app through a fake URL link so as to safeguard themselves against scams. By clicking on unauthorised links, the victim exposes themselves to malware being installed into their personal devices. Such malicious software causes damage and steals confidential data from devices. 

Signs To Check 

  • Unsolicited calls, emails, and texts: be wary of phone calls claiming that you are a winner of a lucky draw etc. Legitimate organisations typically notify winners via emails or mailed letters in addition to a phone call. Look out for spelling and grammatical errors in emails and texts threatening account closure, delivery issues or offering too good to be true deals. Texts often contain links to unverified websites or phone numbers.

Ways To Protect Yourself

  • Do not disclose personal information: this includes one-time passwords (OTP), banking and credit card details.
  • Do not click on URLS in unsolicited emails and messages: type the organisation’s official web address into your browser to ensure and verify that you are at their official website.
  • Add additional security features: turn on two-factor authentication for online accounts for added security.
  • Turn on transaction alerts for your bank accounts and credit accounts. 

T – Tell Relevant Authorities And Loved Ones 

The last step of ACT is tell. When encountered with a scam, tell authorities and share with family and friends to protect them against such scams. Relevant authorities include banks and the police.  

By reporting such cases, you’ll potentially be able to recover your monetary losses through SPF’s Anti-Scam Centre. Set up in 2019, The Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) stops scammer activities by freezing the relevant bank accounts and seizing the money. The time taken for the relevant losses to be returned to victims depends on the complexity of the scam. For instance, scammers from overseas are difficult to investigate, therefore leading to a complex recovery.  

In addition, you can report the scam onto the ScamShield app and proceed to block, report suspicious accounts on messaging and social media platforms.

ACT Accordingly, And It Won’t Be Too Late 

According to NCPC, more than seven million suspicious text messages and 70,000 blacklisted phone numbers have been blocked by the ScamShield application proving its effectiveness against scammers.  

Though, there is still an increasing number of scammers, sites such as ScamAlert and SPF’s weekly scam bulletins raises awareness on the signs of scams and how to protect yourselves against them. This can be seen by the decreasing number of scams occurring from 2020 to 2022, according to SPF’s annual scams and cybercrime brief 2022. From 2020 to 2021, the total number of scams increased by 51.3% while from 2021 to 2022 this percentage was halved to a 25.2% increase.

Read Also: A Warning Story: Why You Need To Watch Out For E-Commerce Scams Now More Than Ever


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