Legal Update

Dealing with Scams

June 23, 2021

Increased number of scams in Singapore

The number of reported scam cases in Singapore increased to a record high of 15,765 in 2020 – a 65.1% increase from 2019.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated and increased the adoption of social media and e-commerce platforms. Online transactions markedly increased as a consequence. It is therefore unsurprising that e-commerce scams are the most prevalent of scams.

Scammers also leverage on and take advantage of, the fear wrought by the Covid-19 situation. Scammers have, unfortunately, successfully based many scams relating to face masks and hand sanitisers.

Other common scams reported in Singapore include social media impersonation, loan scams, bank phishing, investments scams, and ‘credit for love’ scams.

How to spot a scam?

It is important to remain vigilant and understand the indicators of a scam, especially in view of the increasing variety of scams. Scamalert.sg, provides helpful information on the types of scams, indicators of scams, as well as resources and true accounts from scam victims.

Some common scam techniques used include:

Social Media

Scammers usually contact their victims through social media to ask for their personal details (including passwords and one time passwords, known as OTPs) under the pretext of winning a lucky draw or participating in promotions. Other social media scams include scammers who create fake profiles to pose as romantic suitors to contact their targets. These scammers then strike up a relationship with their targets to build trust and even chat with the victims regularly. The scammers would then usually request for money from the victims.

Telephone Calls

Scam calls usually involve phishing for personal information where the scammers impersonate important organisations like banks or government agencies. The scammers would create fake scenarios and usually threaten the victim to reveal personal information or transfer monies to the scammers. Victims are usually swindled out of fear and ignorance.

A useful tool to have would be the Scamshield app recently introduced by the National Crime Prevention Council to block scam calls. The app relies on a database of black-listed phone numbers maintained by the Singapore Police Force. The app also filters scam SMSes and allow users to report scam messages.

Studies have shown that scam victims are likely to fall prey to scams again. The survey found that scam victims have poor online hygiene practices as they tend to click on advertisements or open links from unknown sources.

Therefore, it is important to adopt safe measures and practices when online. Do not reveal personal information (such as bank account details and password) unless you are certain that you are doing so safely. Be careful when communicating with and befriending strangers on the internet.

What to do when you think you are scammed?

To prevent falling victim to scams, it is important to spot the signs of a scam and react quickly.

Your first port of call is a telephone helpline by the National Crime Prevention Council and the Singapore Police Force. The helpline will provide assistance and information to potential scam victims.

You may contact this hotline at 1800-722-6688

You may also file a police report either at the police station or via the Singapore Police Force Website. Before doing so, be sure to collect all information regarding the scam before reporting it. Such information can include screenshots of conversations, transaction details including bank account details, or phone numbers of the scammer if possible. The police will investigate the matter.

For e-commerce scams, you may report any suspected scammers to the platform administrator, who may be able to assist.

If you suspect that you are a victim of a scam, end communications and do not reveal your personal information. Keep records or screenshots of all conversations to keep as evidence.

How to Recover Scammed Monies

When there is monetary loss involved in a scam, there are some ways through which a victim may seek recourse:

Criminal Recourse

If a scammer is caught by the Police and prosecuted, the Court may make a Compensation Order for the scammer to make compensation payment to the victim. At times, the scammer may also volunteer to make amends by returning the scammed amounts to the victim.

If the Police are not able to further investigate a complaint (for example, due to a lack of evidence), a scam victim may choose to continue pursuing the scammer by filing a Magistrate Complaint.

Civil Recourse

Victims of scam may choose to report the scammers to the Consumers Association of Singapore (known as CASE). CASE will then review the matter and may help with resolving the dispute, or provide further advice.

Victims may also file a civil claim against the scammer if sufficient details are known. For example, the Small Claims Tribunal can deal with claims for sale of goods of up to S$10,000.

Recognised as one of Singapore’s Best Law Firms, 2021

PDLegal LLC has been recognised as a recommended firm in The Straits Times’ survey on Singapore’s Best Law Firms for 2021 under the Maritime & Shipping practice category.

The Straits Times, together with international market researcher Statista, conducted the first-ever survey to identify Singapore’s best law firms in 15 different areas of legal practice.

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