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How To Spot and Avoid 6 Biggest Financial Scams

In this digital age, Internet scams are constantly evolving. In fact, Today Online revealed that there was a 24 percent increase in the number of crimes in Singapore last year due to a surge in scam cases — the highest number of cases since 2011. In 2021, scam cases increased by 52.9 percent to 23,931 cases, from 15,651 cases in 2020.

Although it can be difficult to detect online fraud since scammers are continually changing their ways, there are ways you can protect yourself. Read on for the 6 biggest financial scams, and how you can avoid falling prey to fraudsters:

1. E-commerce and delivery scams

Fake items have been listed on e-commerce platforms, trading features on social media or auction sites. Some of these scams involve listing popular items that are in high demand, including concert tickets or gaming consoles at unusually low prices to tempt those on the hunt for a bargain. However, once payment has been made, the seller will disappear and leave the victim hanging. Other scammers will be less responsive and claim that the pre-order would take time to reach Singapore, resulting in the victim’s delay in filing a report.

Another related delivery scam involves unsolicited emails or SMSes informing the victim that his or her parcel is stuck in transit and requires a fee to be paid to ensure delivery.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

If an item is priced way below market rate, always perform due diligence by checking on the seller’s background before you transfer the money.

Never click on URL links provided in unsolicited emails or SMSes. Always verify the authenticity of the information by accessing the official website or the source. When in doubt, reach out to the online merchant directly to check on the status of your goods.

2. SMS phishing scams

Nearly 470 OCBC Bank customers have lost their savings in the recent SMS scams in December 2021. In this scam, conmen spoofed the name used by OCBC in its SMSes and sent text messages to victims with links to phishing sites. Many fell for the scam SMS as their phones grouped it together with the legitimate text messages sent by OCBC for transaction alerts and OTPs. Another trick involved utilising OCBC Bank’s digital authentication process, with a victim receiving a phishing SMS with a link to a fake bank login website.

When the victim enters his or her access code and bank account password on the fake website, the scammer is able to steal these details and enter them into the authentic bank website. The scammer is then able to make multiple transactions up to the daily transfer limit.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

Do not be overly reliant on SMS for strong authentication. When there is a need to confirm sensitive actions, access your bank’s official mobile banking app or type your bank’s website directly into your web browser. Avoid clicking on links sent in your SMSes claiming to direct you to your bank. Additionally, if you are still in doubt, always call your bank directly, instead of any numbers that might be cited in the SMS sent to you.

3. Love scams

You may have watched Netflix’s latest documentary Tinder Swindler, in which tech-savvy women fell prey to an attractive scammer. Closer to home, love scams also happen in Singapore.

According to Statista, there were 822 love scams in Singapore in 2020, up from 81 cases in 2013. Scammers pose as attractive individuals and hunt for their prey online. As a result, many victims fell for such a ruse after conmen spent time getting to know them and gaining their trust. Scammers will then ask for money as a testament of love or claim to require money to get through certain difficulties.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

Humans innately crave companionship, and the void inevitably grew with the ongoing pandemic. If you are looking for love, always be extra careful especially when you are on dating apps. Protect your heart and money by looking out for these warning signs:

  • They urge you to leave the dating app, communicating directly via other channels including WhatsApp and email instead. This could be a sign that they want to erase traces of interaction on the app and obtain your personal contact information.
  • They try to avoid meeting you in real life, coming up with incessant excuses from having to care for a sick sibling to being stuck overseas and needing you to wire them the money.
  • They overwhelm you with love bombing, the practice of showing a person excessive affection and attention as a way of manipulating them in a relationship. They may propose marriage or lead you to believe that you have a future together, and eventually try convincing you to send them money to tide them through their difficulties.

4. Impersonation scams

Some crooks impersonate government officials, police or bank staff and accuse victims of committing a criminal offence such as money laundering in China. Other tactics involve claiming the victim has gotten into trouble with the law, offering investment schemes with high interest rates or easy yet well-paid part-time jobs. Through the use of phone calls, emails or SMS messages, they trick victims into parting with their money or revealing sensitive information including NRIC numbers or banking login details.

Another variant of this scam involves listing fake bank hotlines on Google search engine, so users will call these numbers and be connected to scammers impersonating bank staff.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

By now, you have probably experienced answering a scam call. Even if you are more discerning, these scam calls can be a nuisance. Fortunately, you can use the ScamShield app that was developed and launched in November 2020 to protect you against unsolicited messages and calls from unknown contacts or known scammers.

You can also mitigate such impersonation scams through vigilance on your part. Never reveal any personal information including addresses, telephone numbers or banking details to anyone online unless you are absolutely certain of the authenticity of the website requesting them. One way to verify would be to check if the website displays an SSL certification, with the indication of “https” displayed on the web browser.

5. Jobs scam

In 2021, there were 4,554 reported cases of job scams compared to 132 cases in 2020. The amounts cheated rose to at least S$91 million in 2021, a surge from at least S$217,000 in 2020.

Conmen advertise part-time jobs through social media offering attractive commissions for tasks on a mobile app or website. After getting a small payout, victims are usually asked to transfer money to receive more tasks. However, after the larger transfers have been made, these scammers will then disappear.

Another job scam variant requires victims to download a fake mobile application to sign up for the job and top up funds into their account. They would be promised a commission for finishing the tasks, with the sums being reflected in their account. However, the victims would eventually find out that they are unable to withdraw the money.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

Lucrative returns for minimal effort? It’s probably a fake job offer.

Do not respond to dubious job offers in messaging platforms or email, and look out for these warning signs:

  • Money is involved — you have to transfer money to attend a job interview or apply for a work pass
  • You did not apply for the job
  • Unclear or unusually short job description
  • You are asked to reveal your personal information such as your ID photo
  • Job offer sent from an unofficial email or a “no reply” email
  • The company does not have a website or official social media account

6. Motor workshop insurance scam

Motor insurance fraud is on the rise, so stay alert and recognise the signs.

Motor insurance fraud involves scheming to make exaggerated or false claims involving personal injuries or property damage because of an accident. Some common instances include staged accidents, where scammers intentionally “arrange” for accidents to happen; using phantom commuters where persons not even present at the accident scene claimed to have suffered serious injury, and making untrue personal injury claims with personal injuries being grossly exaggerated.

After the “accident” happens, you may meet a stranger who approaches you offering to tow your vehicle to a good workshop. Always err on the side of caution and decline, as this stranger may be part of a syndicate out to con insurance companies. If found out, you can also be implicated and face serious consequences.

How do I protect myself from this scam?

Always invest in an in-vehicle camera to safeguard yourself from scams. If fraud is involved, these video recordings can help investigators. Just remember to maintain your in-vehicle camera and replace it when it gets faulty.

Additionally, report the accident to the police and your insurer as soon as you can. This allows you to better control the flow of information and make sure that the accident details are recorded in a fair and timely fashion.

Stay vigilant to avoid falling prey

As the cliché goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers prey upon human psychology, promising something that they long for — be it material goods, a job that pays well or emotional support, in the case of love scams.

Spot the signs — does the scenario sound familiar? It’s probably a tactic that scammers reportedly use. Always safeguard personal details and passwords and do not disclose personal information even if the request looks legitimate. Stop and think, or check with others before acting.

Originally published at https://plannerbee.co on March 26, 2022.

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