Singapore

$461,000 lost to lucky draw scams on Facebook: Police

New scams on the rise, including cases where callers impersonate technical support staff

When Ms Tan (not her real name) received a message on Facebook from an account under the name of a former colleague, she did not expect to fall victim to a new scam gaining traction in recent months.

The 20-year-old gave her contact number to the "former colleague" for a Lazada lucky draw.

The scammer then told Ms Tan that she had won a voucher worth $1,700 and asked for her bank account details and a verification code so that the amount could be credited to her.

"When I checked my bank account, I found that $760 was deducted in a Lazada transaction for an iTunes gift card and Google Play Store voucher," recalled Ms Tan, a Malaysian who is based here.

After discovering the fraud, she terminated her bank card and got a refund from Lazada for the amount.

However, not all victims are as lucky as Ms Tan.

At least $461,000 have been lost to scammers using the same modus operandi, with 386 police reports made between January and November this year, according to latest figures provided by the police.

New scams have also been on the rise in recent months, including cases where callers impersonated technical support staff.

Police said over $2.5 million has been lost to this type of scam where the culprits impersonate Singtel staff, in 42 reported incidents in August and September.

Victims were told that there were issues with their modem or Internet connection.

They were then asked to download and install software applications such as TeamViewer or AnyDesk onto their computers, on the pretext that this would allow the Singtel "staff" to resolve the issues.

The scammers would ask the victims to log into their online bank accounts as they accessed the victims' computers remotely.

The scammers would transfer funds out of the bank accounts without the victims' consent.

In another type of scam, 32 people lost at least $135,000 between February and November after responding to unsolicited text messages offering loans, according to new figures from the police.

Once the victims responded to the messages, the scammers would typically send them documents purportedly from the Ministry of Law and/or Monetary Authority of Singapore, claiming that they are required to pay a deposit and 7 per cent goods and services tax before the loans can be approved.

When the victims declined to pay, the scammers would harass them by claiming that the loans have already been approved and a processing fee would have to be paid to cancel the loans.

TRUST

Dr Mohamed Elmie Nekmat from the Media Literacy Council said that Singaporeans might fall prey to such scams "due to the general trust in certain sources... On social media, this could be a person they know or a brand they are familiar with".

"It is hard to say that the emergence of these new types of scams are because Singaporeans are less savvy online," he added.

They should be more cautious when they shop online, said the assistant professor in communications and new media at the National University of Singapore

He added: "Education is always the way to go to prevent more people from becoming scam victims, but technology companies should also introduce measures to reduce the vulnerability of their users."

COURT & CRIME