January 10, 2024
SINGAPORE – The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has been working with social media giants like Meta and Google in the ongoing fight against phishing scams.
The police said on Nov 13, 2023, that at least 93 victims fell prey to a phishing scam involving compromised WhatsApp accounts in November, losing at least $176,000 to the scammers.
In a written reply to two parliamentary questions on phishing scams on Jan 9, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said: “To combat this scam variant, the SPF has been working with Meta to stop further abuse of compromised WhatsApp accounts as soon as they are detected.”
He said the police are also working with online platforms such as Google to introduce stronger safeguards, including pre-emptive detection and blocking of URLs linked to phishing sites.
Additionally, the Online Criminal Harms Act, which is set to be progressively rolled out from this quarter, will allow the Government to tell online messaging platforms to disable access to accounts suspected to be compromised or involved in scams.
Mr Shanmugam was responding to Dr Wan Rizal (Jalan Besar GRC) and Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang), who had raised concerns after the SPF said at least 237 victims had lost $606,000 to phishing scams since November.
There was also a spike from the WhatsApp scam variant.
Mr Shanmugam said this happened as users clicked on a fake WhatsApp website as they tried to access their WhatsApp account on their computers.
Scammers then accessed the victims’ WhatsApp accounts and impersonated the victims to ask their family and friends for money.
More recently, at least 83 victims have fallen prey to a DBS Bank phishing scam since the start of January, losing at least $155,000, after scammers impersonated DBS officials through spoofed SMSes.
The Straits Times reported in October that scam cases in Singapore had increased more than five times to 31,728 in 2022, up from 6,234 cases in 2018.
From January 2018 to June 2023, scammers pocketed more than $2.2 billion from victims in Singapore.
In the first six months of 2023, the police recorded 22,339 cases of scams, with victims losing $7.4 million through 2,991 cases of phishing scams.
The police said phishing scams generally involve e-mails, text messages, calls or advertisements.
Scammers impersonate official sources to trick victims into revealing details like bank account or credit card information.
WhatsApp, Carousell, Facebook and text messages were the most common platforms scammers used to contact victims.
The police advised the public to adopt the following precautionary measures:
Add – Install ScamShield app to protect yourself from scam calls and SMSes. Set up security features such as transaction limits for Internet banking transactions, and two-factor or multi-factor authentication for banks and e-wallets.
Check – Check for scam signs with official sources, such as ScamShield WhatsApp bot @ go.gov.sg/scamshield-bot, or call the Anti-Scam Helpline on 1800-722-6688, or visit www.scamalert.sg. Look for telltale signs of a phishing website and never disclose your personal or banking credentials, including one-time passwords, to anyone.