Five sneaky ways scammers can steal your hard-earned money in Singapore

Though it’s troubling to think about, scams have become serious business in Singapore. Discover five ways scammers can steal your money – and how to protect yourself.

According to The Straits Times, people in Singapore lost a whopping SGD 633.3 million to the wiles of scammers in the year 2021 alone, some 2.5 times more than in the previous. 

The fact is that phishers, scammers, and other malicious agents have gotten even better at deceiving innocent people and stealing their hard-earned money. That’s why it’s all the more urgent to learn about the nature of these scams and to be better equipped to sniff out scammers’ conspicuous behaviours. 

Prevent theft, as well as violations to your personal privacy and security, by keeping abreast of common scams. To that end, here’s a short list of job scams, social media scams, ecommerce scams, and phishing scams Singapore citizens and residents should be aware of. 

1) Making bogus calls or sending bogus SMS messages to your mobile number

Some of the most enduring scams take place through call or text message. But though these channels have always been familiar ones to scammers, the most cunning of them have taken it up a notch to sound even more believable to their victims.

A scammer can call you in the guise of a bank representative and ask for your personal details as they relate to overpayments, participation in surveys, or new product offerings. It’s also possible for you to receive SMS messages from people purporting to be part of big companies or charity organisations, saying that you’re the lucky recipient of a huge prize. The sender may then require you to give them your personal info in order for you to claim your “winnings.” 

When you get calls or text messages asking for your private details, it’s safest to take a pause or to completely ignore the person on the other end of the line. Don’t surrender any more information about yourself until you know where they got your number and whether their concern is a legitimate one.

Look for further information about their concern from a reliable source, for example on your bank’s website or on the company’s website. If things don’t line up with what the caller or message sender is telling you, cease communication right away because it’s highly likely that they’re trying to scam you. 

2) Roping you into ecommerce scams

Another type of scam that’s rife in Singapore nowadays is the ecommerce scam. Scammers have perfected the art of conning buyers at different stages of their online purchase, from ordering to delivery. 

It’s not uncommon for bogus sellers to hawk valuable products—like luxury goods, concert tickets, electronics, or furniture—at unbelievably low prices. If a buyer does bite, there’s a chance that they’ll receive something that doesn’t fulfil their expectations or, worse yet, that they won’t receive anything at all. But by the time they’re ready to file a complaint, the seller mysteriously disappears. 

In other cases, people claiming to be sellers from ecommerce stores call their victims and tell them that there’s been an accidental transaction or a mistake in their delivery. These fakers will then try to elicit personal info in the interest of “reversing” the transaction. 

To shield yourself against heartbreak and financial loss related to ecommerce scams, you must remember to do two things. First, acknowledge the risks of what you buy online, and only buy items from trusted ecommerce sellers with good customers to their name. Second, always keep track of the things you order from ecommerce stores and trust the updates you get from official channels, like the ecommerce platform. Again, if something doesn’t check out, ignore the message or decline the call.

3) Sending you fake emails that are ostensibly from your bank

People in Singapore are also vulnerable to phishers, or scammers that steal personal information to perform unauthorised transactions from someone else’s account. Many instances of phishing take place over email, where phishers can pretend to contact customers on behalf of their bank.

These fake emails usually prompt a customer to go to an external site to log in their banking details. By the time the customer realises that the site was a fake one, the phishers may have already made off with their personal info and performed illicit bank transfers or credit card purchases in their name. 

If you’re new to online banking and are just getting used to transacting with your bank on the internet, you should learn to spot the signs of a phishing scam. Upon looking carefully at an email that appears to be from your bank, you may notice that the sender’s email has a different domain name from your bank’s website, or that there are conspicuous misspellings or grammar mistakes. Ignore these emails completely and resist the urge to click on any sites they direct you towards. 

Remember that your bank will never prompt you to give your account number, PIN, email address, birthday, phone number, or password when a legitimate bank representative contacts you. Staff are only allowed to verify this info when you are the one to call them first. For any inquiry about your balance, your credit card bill, your account security, and other matters to do with your bank, be sure to make the first move and contact the bank yourself. 

4) Luring you into a job scam

Pandemic anxiety and unemployment may have driven up the occurrence of job-related scams, as these emerged as the most common type of scam in Singapore in 2021. In these scenarios, sham recruiters usually press their unsuspecting victims into applying for a job through an unfamiliar platform. The applicant is then required to pay a recruitment or application fee or do a certain amount of labour on the assumption that they’ll be properly compensated or hired for the job. 

When applying for a job in Singapore, always be sure to do so through safe, trustworthy, and verifiable channels. Regard overly aggressive recruiters, job application fees, and application processes that require you to jump through too many hoops as red flags. A job worth taking on will distinguish itself from others through a reliable and transparent recruitment process. Don’t settle for anything less, as it may turn out to be a scam in the end. 

5) Impersonating someone else on social media

Lastly, even if it’s not your own account that a scammer is operating from, they may be able to steal your hard-earned money by impersonating one of your friends or family members. If one of these people suddenly messages you on social media claiming that they’re in dire straits, pay attention if they want to solicit money from you.

To be extra sure about what kind of situation your loved one is in, try to get in touch with them through mobile phone or to contact someone who’s close to them. That’s the only way to tell whether they’re in trouble or not. 

There’s even a possibility that you’ll encounter a “love scam,” in which a scammer will take on the guise of a romantic prospect and gradually charm you into giving them money. Be wary of anyone who is quick to declare romantic feelings for you without knowing you very well and who aggressively demands money from you as validation of your love and loyalty. 

What can you do about scams in Singapore? 

Knowledge and action are the two best weapons to wield against scams in Singapore. To protect yourself and your loved ones from being victimised by any of these scams, remember to do the following:  

  • Guard your personal information closely and make sure that your details are not easy to obtain. Make an effort to update your account PINs and passwords every now and then, and don’t base these on something that a scammer or phisher can easily guess (like your birthday).
  • Be cautious around people who want to rush you or who seem to be pressuring you into giving away your money or personal info. Scammers are most powerful when their victims don’t have full presence of mind, are flustered, or are panicked by the situation.
  • Read up on the most common forms of scams in Singapore and how these are evolving. You should also learn how to report scams and find out whom you should notify when you chance upon any of them. Type “report scam call Singapore” into a search engine and take note of which authorities are responsible. 

Though Singapore is a safe and happy place to live overall, you cannot discount the presence of people who want to take advantage of others. Stop them in their tracks and do your part to prevent the spread of these common scams.