Here are the top 3 scams in Singapore and how you can avoid being duped by them


Be extra careful during your next online transaction.

According to the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) mid-year crime statistics in 2021, crime is on an incline, driven mostly by an increase in scam cases.

The number of scam cases in Singapore rose by 16 per cent from 7,247 cases in 2020 to 8,403 cases in 2021.

The total amount cheated for the top ten types of scams increased from S$63.5 million in the first half of 2020 to S$168.0 million within the same period in 2021.

Scam tactics are constantly evolving but one common thing that scammers take advantage of is people’s vulnerability whenever there is a sense of uncertainty.

Of the top ten types of scams, we will be touching on three to illustrate the severity of the local scam situation.

Scams that happened in Singapore

Here are examples of the top three scam types in Singapore:

Bank-related phishing scams

Between Jan. 14 to 27, a total of 170 men and 89 women, aged between 16 and 80, were investigated for their suspected involvement in scams in scammers or money mules.

The suspects were believed to be involved in more than 564 cases of scams, including banking-related phishing scams, where victims lost more than S$5.9 million.

In some cases, victims would receive unsolicited SMSes claiming that there were issues with their iBanking accounts and they would be asked to click on a link in order to resolve the issues.

Screenshots showing examples of phishing scams, one of Singapore's top scams.

Image courtesy of SPF.

Image courtesy of SPF.

Upon clicking on the links embedded within the SMSes, victims would be redirected to fake bank websites and asked to key in their iBanking account login details.

The victims would discover that they had been scammed when they received notifications informing them of unauthorised transactions charged to their bank accounts.

Tech support scams

On Sept. 17, 2021, Microsoft revealed in a commission survey on tech support scams that 34 per cent of Singaporeans received an unsolicited call in the past year.

This is a 15 per cent increase from that in 2018.

A tech support scam is where victims are purportedly cheated by scammers impersonating “tech support” staff from a telecommunications company.

In one such case, a senior IT professional, K received a phone call from someone claiming to be a technical support employee from a local telecommunication service provider claiming that K’s internet router was hacked.

A person uses their mobile phone for digital banking. Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash

The scammer asked K to check his modem number and gave verbal instructions over the call, pretending to verify the customer’s identification.

Following this, the scammer said that his superior would continue with further checks.

To make the problem appear authentic, the caller explained to the victim why the checks were necessary and reassured K that they would do all checks necessary to rectify the issue.

Sensing that they had gained K’s trust, the scammers convinced K to install “Teamviewer” – a remote monitoring and control software – and told him that they would use this programme to monitor the external IP addresses connected to his network and identify the hackers.

K didn’t know that he had effectively given the scammers control over his computer and with that, access to his bank accounts.

Over a slew of deceptions that lasted three days, K nearly lost S$180,000 of his life savings that the scammers had attempted to transfer out before they were caught.

Investment scams

The total amount cheated in investment scams from January to June this year was S$66.2 million, including a case where a victim lost a total of S$3.3 million.

There were 1,054 investment scam cases reported during this period.

In this type of scam, victims received messages from people claiming to be stockbrokers or bank and financial company employees on social networking sites like Facebook, WeChat or Line.

The scammers then asked victims to transfer money to overseas banks in Hong Kong and China to pay administrative fees, security fees and taxes to receive the profits and returns.

Top scams in singaporePhoto by Austin Distel on Unsplash

In one case, a 49-year-old Singaporean man lost his life savings to an investment scam. He befriended a lady on Facebook and cultivated a trusting relationship with her despite never meeting her in real life or hearing her voice.

The woman convinced him to download a mobile app to do “trading”. In total, the man pumped in S$50,000 which he never recovered.

These are only three cases out of the many incidences of scams that have been reported in Singapore.

Scams can happen to anyone or any online platform.

According to Scam Alert, here are red flags to look out for when you encounter these types of scams:

  1. Finding spelling or grammar mistakes in emails and other communications that claim to be from the authorities.

  2. Receiving official-looking emails that do not address you by name.

  3. Being informed that you have been linked to a criminal investigation, your mobile number was used in a crime, or that your Wi-Fi had been compromised.

  4. Being offered unreasonably high investment returns on unfamiliar financial entities based outside of Singapore.

  5. Being told that the matter will be escalated to the police if you do not cooperate.

  6. Receiving a call from a number beginning with +65 but the caller claims to be from Singapore. Only calls originating from overseas will display a “+” prefix.

Online banking has brought about a lot of convenience, allowing us to receive or send money with a tap. But this technology can be taken advantage of by scammers. We need to know to protect ourselves and our loved ones from scams.

On Jan. 19, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that it will be working with banks to put in place new measures to bolster the security of digital banking.

Some measures include having no clickable links in emails or SMSes and a delay of at least 12 hours before activation of a new soft token on a mobile device.

To avoid falling for online banking scams, MAS advises bank customers:

  • Don’t click on links provided in SMSes or emails.

  • Don’t divulge internet banking credentials or passwords to anyone.

  • Verify SMSes or emails received by calling the bank directly on the hotline listed on its official website Customer service hotline numbers are also listed on the back of your bank cards.

  • Verify that you are at the bank’s official website before making any transactions. Alternatively, you can perform your transactions through the bank’s official mobile application.

  • Monitor transaction notifications closely so that any unauthorised payments are reported as soon as possible to increase the chances of recovery.

Four things you need to know when banking or paying online

 1. Think or check before you do

Commonly seen in scams, scammers will ask for your OTPs, passwords, usernames, digital token approval, bank account or card details.

Never share any of these details.

Also, do not click on links from emails or SMS without verifying if they are legitimate. If you are a DBS/POSB customer, note that as an additional security measure to protect its customers, DBS will stop sending non-essential SMSes.

Starting Jan. 22, DBS will send only essential SMSes to its retail and wealth customers until further notice. These include security and trade notifications, and OTP authentication and will not include clickable links.

Always check with others before providing information online. Don’t be fooled by threats or offers that appear too good to be true.

Familiarise yourself with signs of scams by reading real accounts here.

2. Update your particulars and enable notifications for all bank transactions

Update your particulars with the bank so that you can receive the latest transaction alerts.

This includes your mobile, home, office and fax numbers, email address, residential and mailing address, occupation details and marketing contactability options.

To update your particulars, head to your DBS digibank app and tap on "More" then "Update Particulars".

After tapping "Update Particulars", you'll be led to this page where you can change your particulars. 

This way, your bank can immediately notify you — via push notifications, email notifications or SMS — whenever digital payments or transfers are made with your bank account.

Also, you can customise your notifications so that the bank will send you an alert whenever it detects a transaction above a pre-set limit.

Head to the DBS website and log in to your account. Next, click on “Manage Alerts”. 

Next click on the red button under “Alerts on Banking Accounts”.

Lastly, check the boxes for SMS or Email to choose your notification mode. You can also adjust your minimum threshold here.

Note that as part of additional measures to safeguard your online banking experience, your transaction notification alerts will be set at SGD 100 by default – though you can manually adjust this threshold via the above method. Your notification settings will not be changed if you have set a threshold lower than this default amount.

3. Select a device to authenticate your transactions

Setting up a digital token allows you to authenticate transactions securely with enhanced encryption.

Or you can use your phone to receive OTP to authenticate your transactions every time.

Now, approving or rejecting bank transactions will be much more secure.

4. Be in control of your transactions

With DBS, you can bank with ease and protect yourself against fraud.

Misplaced your card? Lock it immediately via the payment control feature on the DBS digibank app.

With DBS’ in-app customisable functions, you can enable security functions when you need them and disable them when you don’t.

You can also easily set up spending limits or transaction limits that are similar to your spending pattern. This way, you can prevent large sums of money from being transacted out of your bank account.

Log into your DBS digibank app and tap on “More” on the bottom right. Scroll down to “Transfer Settings” and tap on “Local Transfer Limit”.

Next, you can set up your new daily transfer limit. 

Learn to #BSHARP with DBS and protect yourself and your loved ones online.

Stay updated on DBS’s security alerts, and find out more about how DBS protects you here

This article is produced in partnership with Mothership.

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