SINGAPORE — A staggering 3,718 people have reportedly lost over S$12 million to the escalating ‘fake friend’ call scam since the start of the year.
This represents a significant increase from the 2,106 reported cases in 2022 that resulted in losses of at least S$8.8 million, as disclosed by the police in February.
The fraudulent scheme involves scammers contacting potential victims via calls or text messages, impersonating as friends or acquaintances. They encourage victims to guess their identities, effectively luring them into the trap.
Once the victim identifies a friend, the scammer masquerades as the guessed friend and requests a loan due to alleged financial difficulties or banking issues. Unwitting victims are then persuaded to transfer money to local bank accounts.
The scam is usually exposed when victims make contact with the real person the scammer pretended to be or when their loans go unpaid.
Police warn that the scammers have evolved their methods and are now sending phishing links disguised as requests for help in tasks such as tracking a lost phone or making a purchase.
These malicious links lead victims to phishing websites where they are prompted to enter their banking credentials or card details, leading to unauthorized transactions.
Alternatively, the links may result in the download of an Android application file that installs malware on victims’ phones, allowing the scammers remote access to the device and theft of stored passwords or banking credentials.
More than 46 per cent of the victims fall within the 30-49 age group.
The police have warned the public to beware of unusual requests via text messages or calls, and to block suspicious numbers.They advise against downloading applications from suspicious websites or third-party app stores to avoid malware installations.
When asked to download unknown applications, the police recommend checking the developer information, the number of downloads, and user reviews to confirm the legitimacy of the application.
Public awareness is crucial in combating this type of cybercrime. Citizens should validate requests for financial assistance through alternate channels and disregard new contact details provided by unknown callers. They should immediately report any fraudulent transactions to their banks.
The police have urged the public to install security applications like ScamShield and anti-malware apps on their devices.
Implementing security features such as two-factor or multi-factor authentication for banking and setting limits on internet banking transactions is highly advised.
The public should also keep their devices updated with the latest security patches and should not permit pop-ups to access their device’s hardware or data.
To verify potential scams, the public can consult www.scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Helpline on 1800-772-6688.
Anyone with information relating to such crimes should contact the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.