Imagine being fully engrossed in a zoom work meeting when your phone suddenly rings, and a number +65 is plastered on the screen. It could be from anyone or an emergency call from our loved ones. Not leaving anything to chance, you immediately excuse yourself from your colleagues (and even bosses) to pick up the phone, only to be greeted by a robotic voice over the line.
By now, most of us would have probably experienced picking up a scam call. Some of us might have also received SMS, Whatsapp or Wechat messages about unlicensed loans or gambling platforms. These calls and messages are not only disruptive, but it also results in wasted time as we might be led on unknowingly.
While some of us might be discerning enough to realise the scam, not everyone could do so. According to Singapore Police Force (SPF), in 2020 mobile-related scams accounted for almost 4,400 reported cases and over $60 million were cheated by scammers.
Most of these cases can be avoided if the scammers are unable to reach us or our loved ones in the first place. Recognising the importance of such preventive measures, ScamShield was developed and launched in November 2020 to help combat the rising scam cases targeting mobile phone users.
What is ScamShield And How Does It Work?
ScamShield is a mobile app that helps to prevent scammers from reaching us through our mobile numbers. The app is a tripartite development between the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), the Open Government Products team from the Government Technology Agency and Singapore Police Force (SPF).
The app focuses on two main functions – blocking scam numbers and filtering scam messages into junk. The scam messages are identified and filtered using artificial intelligence by the application.
Source: Singapore Police Force
Apart from reducing the number of scammers reaching our phones, we can also help report scam numbers that go through to our mobiles.
Source: Scam Shield App
Currently, the database of blocked numbers and scam messages are managed by NCPC and SPF’s Anti-Scam Centre (ASC).
Apart from collecting the scammers’ numbers, the Anti-Scam Centre takes a proactive approach against the scammers. This includes reaching out to telecommunication companies to block, suspend or terminate the line. Besides cancelling lines, ASC also monitors the online space and actively work to take down malicious websites. Recently in April 2021, ASC blocked a website as it detected an SMS phishing scam where victims were prompted to click through a URL link to the phishing site.
Protect Our Loved Ones (And Ourselves) Using ScamShield
One of the ways we can help protect our loved ones (and ourselves) is by installing ScamShield. Especially for those of us with vulnerable parents or relatives who may fall prey to scams, ScamShield can provide an additional barrier to stop scammers.
ScamShield is also simple to install and we can easily set it up for our loved ones who may not be digitally savvy. After the quick set-up (in 4 steps), it can be left to work quietly in the background to block calls and sieve out scam messages into our junk.
As a preventive measure, ScamShield has been effective in reducing the reach of scammers. Over the past six months since its launch, ScamShield has filtered over 722,865 SMSes and blocked over 5,537 phone numbers.
While it is effective in reducing the frequency of scam calls and messages, ScamShield is not a failproof solution. Scam methods are constantly evolving and occasionally a scammer’s call could still slip through. We can help improve the effectiveness of the app by reporting the case via ScamShield. This will help keep ScamShield updated and prevent the scam from claiming more victims.
ScamShield Protects You (And Your Privacy)
ScamShield aims to reduce the reach of scammers while also maintaining the privacy of our personal data.
Firstly, ScamShield does not require us to register with our mobile phone number nor our location and hence will not be able to identify any users.
Secondly, it does not have any access to data from people in our contact list. While ScamShield does collect data on scam SMSes, only messages sent by unknown numbers would be sent to NCPC & ASC.
For example, if a message came from a known contact, the SMS would not be handed to ScamShield. In the event, we interacted with an unknown contact or decided to engage an unknown contact in conversation, that SMS content would not be sent to ScamShield too.
A free application, ScamShield has been downloaded by over 119,000 users. Currently only available on iOS devices, ScamShield can be downloaded from the App Store for free. Android users would have to wait as ScamShield are working with relevant partners closely to push out the app.
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