An Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams will be set up by the government to “formulate and execute” a strategy in combatting scams, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling on Monday (2 March) in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) committee of supply debate This inter-ministry committee will include the MHA as well as the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).
Part of the committee’s strategy will be to deter potential wrongdoers and limit their operations within Singapore, mitigate losses incurred by victims and ensure public vigilance and wariness of scams.
“But even as the government steps up efforts to combat scams, we cannot do it alone. Businesses have a role to play too, especially those such as e-commerce platforms and banks, which can also be exploited by scammers, causing monetary losses to customers,” said Ms Sun.
The minister added that MHA will collaborate closely with businesses to implement upstream measures which would limit the ability of such perpetrators to do harm.
Noting that online scams are “an area of concern”, Ms Sun highlighted that technological advancements have changed the way criminals operate, adding that criminals have “a new means” of targeting victims via social media platforms.
She highlighted that there was an increase in the number of police reports of scams in the country in 2019, in particular relating to e-commerce, loans and credit-for-sex.
The police released statistics in January showing that scam cases account for 27 percent of overall crimes last year, with scam cases shooting up by 54 percent from the previous year. That’s a total of 9,502 scam cases reported in 2019 compared to 6,189 cases in 2018.
“Foreign syndicates use the Internet and spoofing technology to obscure their identity and conduct illegal activities. Our enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments,” said Ms Sun.
Urging the public to exercise caution online, Ms Sun said that the “best defence” against these scams is a “discerning public”. She explained that criminals look to exploit an individual’s feelings for their loved ones or their personal motivations.
“We urge the public to be sceptical of incredulous promises, to utilise escrow accounts provided by the platforms for transaction where possible, and to check with the authorities when approached by dubious people purporting to be government officials,” said Ms Sun.