The Sunday Times
It is worrying that online scams should continue to scar Singapore society in spite of the extensive publicity that has been put out in the media and by way of public education posters at MRT stations and elsewhere. The police handled 7,253 cases across 10 main categories of scams in the six months to June 30 – a whopping 139 per cent jump from the 3,027 incidents in the same period last year. The main categories were e-commerce and social media impersonation ruses, followed by loan and banking-related phishing fraud cases. Other common types involved credit-for-sex rackets, suspicious investment offers, Internet love scams and cases where fraudsters impersonated officials from China. Scammers are getting richer as well. The 10 main fraud categories resulted in victims losing $82 million – 97.1 per cent up on the $41.6 million lost in the first half of last year.
Clearly, scams have worked and taken advantage of those who are gullible and inattentive. In the case of the latest statistics, some of the vulnerabilities to scams appeared to stem from the insecurities experienced by Singaporeans during the punishing Covid-19 period. Fraudsters succeeded in inserting themselves into an online sphere where more people were making purchases, communicating and interacting. However, their fundamental tactics remained the same: They lay in the ability to exploit psychological states so victims would respond in ways that they would not normally do, such as by sharing one-time passwords.
The response lies in continuing to inculcate habitual vigilance so fraudsters have less scope to operate. Scams did not begin yesterday. Instead, public education warnings are so familiar that it is difficult to see how much more the authorities can do. The police can act only when a crime has been committed, and it is difficult to intervene earlier. It is up to Singaporeans to learn from the experiences of victims in their midst, and stay safe.
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