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July 9, 2016
Think you are too alert to be scammed? You'll be surprised.
While the elderly are stereotyped as easy targets, statistics show that younger, educated people are susceptible to being scammed as well. In fact those aged between 20 and 49 years old comprise 67 per cent of victims who have fallen prey to scams involving fake Chinese police officers.
Here are seven types of scams that are happening in Singapore right now:
1) SP Services scams
The newest scam tactic, as reported by AsiaOne on Friday (July 8), involves phone scammers pretending to be from Singapore Power Services. These scammers try to con their victims by claiming that their utilities accounts are in arrears or that their electricity meters need to be changed.
The victims are then asked to make payment to a designated bank account.
SP Services said on its website that it did not make these calls, and that those who have received such calls should contact SP Services at 1800 222 2333.
2) '999' Scams
If you happen to miss a phone call with numbers that begin with '999' on your mobile phone, you may be the target of another phone scam.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Wednesday (July 6) that some people have received such calls, and when they returned the calls, they found themselves calling the police emergency hotline instead.
In an advisory released on Facebook, police urged the public to ignore such calls and contact the police at 1800-255 0000 should they have any related information to the case. The emergency hotline at '999' should be used only if urgent Police assistance is required.
3) Internet love scams
According to the Singapore Police Force, Internet love scams have resulted in the highest amount lost by scam victims from January to May this year. Together, victims of such scams have lost $8.9 million in just five months.
Those who carry out such scams usually claim to be foreigners, and seek out those who are looking for love or companionship online. The swindlers then cook up stories that they are in trouble, and ask the victims to transfer money to them.
In a report, The New Paper said that there has been a 294 per cent increase in such cases as compared to the same period last year. One woman even went into debt when a man she met on Facebook cheated her of $1.2 million.
The Scam Alert! website set up by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) to educate Singaporeans about scams says that you should exercise caution when befriending strangers online.
Do not send money to people you do not know well, even if they have spent a long time building an online relationship with you. You should also contact the police if you are asked to send money to someone claiming to be in trouble overseas.
4) China officials impersonation/ parcel phone scams
Also known as the "DHL scam", this seems to be one of the most common scams in recent months, with over $4.9 million reportedly scammed from victims from January to May.
In such cases, victims receive calls from individuals claiming to be authorities from China. The perpetrators tell the victims that there are illegal items in parcels under their names.
They are then told they have to make a payment, usually through remittance of money, or face jail time.
Just this week, AsiaOne reported that two different victims were nearly scammed of $180,000 and $25,000. Fortunately for them, alert employees at remittance agencies called the police when they noticed the victims had no good reason to transfer such large sums abroad.
According to the Scam Alert! website, scammers are now also asking victims to download certain applications onto their mobile phones. These applications may be infected with malware to allow third parties to access private information on their victims' phones.
Those who receive such calls should protect themselves by not following the caller's instructions, and safeguard their personal information by not divulging their name, identification number and other details.
5) Credit-for-sex scams
In such cases, swindlers befriend their victims on social media and convince them to buy transfer cards or online shopping credits, with the promise of sexual services or dates in return. These meet-ups never materialise and victims realise they've been scammed only when it is too late.
In April this year, it was reported that more than 200 men had already fallen prey to such scams since the start of 2016. In May it was revealed that up to $646,900 has already been lost by victims of credit-for-sex scams since the start of the year.
Those who befriend strangers online should be wary of any escort, massage or sexual services offered. You should never provide personal details in online engagements, and do not share any payment receipts with personal information with people you do not know.
6) Online purchase scams
It's a case of too good to be true.
Victims of such scams usually respond to online advertisements selling electronic gadgets at low prices. They are then told to make advance payment, but find that they have been conned when the items fail to arrive. In some cases, victims have also been told to make payment for duties and delivery charges.
From January to May this year, a total of $623,500 was lost in such scams.
To protect yourself from such scams, make sure you are purchasing from reputable vendors and do not make advanced payments to people you do not know or trust. If you do need to make a payment, make sure you have the seller's contact number and can verify his/her identity and track record.
7) Authority impersonating scams
Victims in such scams usually receive calls from individuals claiming to be officers from various government or authority bodies such as the police, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority or Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The impersonator will then ask the victim for his/her personal information such as their bank account numbers, and may even tell them to transfer money to absolve themselves of involvement in made-up cases.
According to the police, over $100,000 was lost in such scams in the first four months of 2016.
Similar to the DHL scam, those who receive such calls or messages should ignore them and refrain from transferring money to the caller. You should also call '999' should you receive calls from individuals pretending to be government officers.