SINGAPORE: In response to the escalating threat of scams and Android malware plaguing the nation, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) is joining forces with social media giant Meta to tackle the rising menace. In recent months, victims have been duped by a spate of Android malware scams, often originating from deceptive advertisements on Meta’s platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
The police revealed that scammers have grown increasingly sophisticated and adaptable in their tactics to exploit their victims’ vulnerabilities. They often entice users with attractive offers and promotions of products, services, and travel packages on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Statistics from last month indicated a staggering S$334.5 million (US$244.8 million) loss to scams in the first half of the year, reflecting a modest 2.2 per cent decrease compared to the previous year. However, alarmingly, the number of scam cases surged by 64.5 per cent during the same period.
More than half of these cases, precisely 55 per cent, resulted in losses less than or equal to S$2,000, with young adults aged 20 to 39 being the most vulnerable group. E-commerce, job, and phishing scams accounted for most incidents targeting this demographic.
The top five methods employed by scammers to approach victims encompassed messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, social media, phone calls, online shopping platforms, and SMS messages.
Notably, over 750 cases of Android device users falling victim to malware scams were reported in the first half of the year, resulting in losses of at least S$10 million. Some victims had their CPF savings affected, amounting to at least S$218,000. However, the police’s Anti-Scam Command managed to recover some of the CPF money, mitigating the net loss to approximately S$130,000.
In their quest to combat this menace, the police have taken “timely enforcement action” and are working closely with banks to track and recover funds. International collaboration with overseas law enforcement agencies has been crucial in dismantling cross-border scam syndicates.
Since early June 2023, more than 130 individuals involved in malware phishing scams have been arrested locally. In collaboration with the Royal Malaysia Police, the Anti-Scam Command dismantled two transnational malware phishing syndicates in Malaysia, leading to the arrest of nine syndicate members in July and August 2023.
The police have also joined forces with the Association of Banks in Singapore and relevant government agencies to raise awareness among customers about malware scams. They strongly advise users to install apps solely from official app stores. Moreover, the Anti-Scam Centre has collaborated with banks to enhance their fraud detection and blocking mechanisms.
Several banks in Singapore, including DBS, UOB, OCBC, and CitiBank, have bolstered their anti-scam security measures to curb the rising tide of scams. This includes restricting customers from accessing the banks’ digital services if unverified app stores are detected.
DBS, OCBC, and UOB have also announced a new measure to fortify the defence against scams that will allow customers to “lock up” a specific amount of funds that cannot be digitally transferred out of their accounts. Each bank will unveil its version of a “money lock” by November.
Banks to allow customers “lock” account funds to prevent scam