An email that has been making rounds allegedly sent by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong encouraging people to give their “contribution and thought” on the current COVID-19 situation in Singapore is fake, said Mr Lee in a Facebook post today (30 March).
He also urged the public to not respond to it or divulge any personal details if they have received the email.
“A fake email that purports to come from me is circulating online. The email gives an update on the COVID-19 situation, and encourages them to respond with their contributions and thoughts to the situation,” he wrote.
He added, “If you receive such an email, do not respond to it. Also do not provide any personal information.”
Additionally, PM Lee also asked people to not forward the email to their friends and family.
In response to this, Mr Lee said that he has reported the matter to the police.
It appears that the email was sent using PM Lee’s “personal email” account, thanking the people of Singapore for their contribution towards the COVID-19 situation, while asking for a response.
“These are unscrupulous characters trying to exploit the current crisis to dupe you. Be extra careful, and stay safe online,” the premier wrote.
Ever since the COVID-19 situation emerged in the Republic, there have been many cases of phishing scams reported here.
On Friday (27 March), the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that it has come to its attention that scammers have been using automated voice calls or impersonating MOH employees or the contact tracing team.
Upon getting in touch with the member of the public, these fraudsters would ask them for their personal information, including financial details, or ask them to get documents from the Ministry.
In response to this, MOH said in its website, “MOH will not ask for your financial details during contact tracing, and MOH will not ask you to collect documents from us, if you do not have existing matters with us.”
It added, “When in doubt, please verify the authenticity of phone calls by calling MOH hotline at 1800-333-9999. It is a good practice to always verify the authenticity of instructions before offering any personal information or making payments to anyone.”
New inter-ministry committee to set up to combat scams
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.
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.
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.