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Friday, October 7, 2022
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SCAM VICTIMS LOST $227.8M IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2022

Scams continued to be the main driver of crime in the first half of 2022. From January 2022 to June 2022, an increase in scams to 14,349 cases drove up the total number of reported crimes to 25,593 cases, from 18,725 cases in the same period in 2021. Scammers have constantly been evolving their tactics and facilitated by the increase in online activities.

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The total number of scam cases reported rose to 14,349 in the first half of 2022, from 7,746 cases in the same period last year.

The total amount cheated for the top ten scam types increased to $227.8 million in the first half of 2022, from $142.5 million in the same period last year.

Job scams, phishing scams, e-commerce scams and investment scams remain of particular concern and made up 74.5% of the top ten scam types reported in the first half of 2022

Job scams

Job scams recorded the highest number of reported cases amongst all scam types in the first half of 2022. There were 3,573 cases reported, and the total amount cheated was $58.5 million. The job scams generally offered attractive “commissions” for relatively simple tasks, but required the victims to provide their own funds. Victims would provide more and more funds to earn more “commission”, but would eventually end up losing their money when they were unable to withdraw their funds.

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In most job scams, victims would come across online advertisements or receive unsolicited messages over chat applications such as Telegram and WhatsApp from unknown numbers, which offer part-time jobs with high salaries that can be performed from home. The message would also include a WhatsApp number as a point of contact for interested victims to sign up for the job by creating an account. A common variant of the scam entails the victim being asked to help e-commerce platform merchants improve their sales by making advance purchases. The scammer would assure the victims that their money would eventually be refunded, and a commission would be paid to the victims. The scammers would then provide an e-commerce platform item link to the victims and instruct them to provide a screenshot of the item in their shopping cart. Thereafter, the victims would be instructed to make payment for the item by transferring the money to a bank account number provided by the scammer. This process would be repeated several times, beginning with low-cost items before progressing to more expensive items. The scammers would initially refund the victims the cost of the item and the commission, but would later claim to have encountered issues with the refund and would stop paying the victims.

In other variants, victims who contacted the number provided would be instructed by the scammers to complete tasks online, such as liking social media posts, or reviewing hotels and restaurants on a website, for a commission. The scammers would then provide the victims with a website to perform the tasks and would change the URL of the website frequently. The victims would also be told that they needed to top up their accounts with money to begin the tasks. After receiving an initial small payout for completing a certain number of tasks, victims would be told by the scammers to ‘recharge’ their job accounts by transferring money to various bank accounts, before more tasks could be performed. Victims would Page 3 of 15 realise that they had been scammed when they were unable to withdraw the money in their job accounts, and the scammers became uncontactable.

In a Ponzi-like job scam variant, victims would be asked to purchase expensive memberships before they could take part in unrealistically lucrative job tasks. Victims would often do so until the sums became extremely high, and they no longer wished to continue. However, they would be told that they can only get back all their money when they finish all the tasks. Often, this would be when victims realise that they had been scammed.

Advertisements on messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram were common methods used by scammers to reach out to the victims.

Phishing scams

Phishing scams recorded the second highest number of reported cases amongst all scam types in the first half of 2022. There were 2,301 cases reported and the total amount cheated was $7.8 million.

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In banking-related phishing scams, culprits impersonated bank or government officials. They approached victims via calls (phone call/in-app calls e.g. WhatsApp), and convinced them to provide bank card or account details and OTPs, by pretending to assist with issues concerning the victims’ bank card or account. They also sent unsolicited SMSes claiming that there were issues with the victims’ banking account, and the victims were asked to click on a link embedded in the text message to resolve the issue. Upon clicking on the link, the victims were redirected to fake bank websites and asked to key in their internet banking account login details. In some cases, the SMSes would state a phone number, belonging to the scammers, that the victims could call to seek help with their suspended bank card. Subsequently, victims found unauthorised transactions from their bank account.

Calls and SMSes were the most common channels used by the scammers to approach the victims.

In non-banking related phishing scams, victims would receive emails or text messages from scammers impersonating entities that are known or trusted, such as banks, government agencies, trade unions, or companies such as SingPost, Grab or Netflix. These emails and text messages would make fake offers or claims in order to trick recipients into clicking on a phishing URL link. These fake offers or claims include outstanding payment for parcel delivery, disruptions to services or subscriptions, refunds, or promotions. Page 4 of 15 Upon clicking on the phishing URL links, victims would be redirected to fraudulent websites where they would be tricked into providing their credit/debit card details and OTPs. Victims would only realise that they have been scammed when they discover unauthorised transactions made using their credit/debit card.

In another variant, the scammers would typically approach victims on Carousell and express interest in purchasing items that victims are selling. The scammers would request to make payment via CarouPay to the victims’ PayNow account. Thereafter, the victims would receive an email purportedly sent from Carousell, indicating that the payment had been made. This phishing email would then instruct victims to provide their internet banking account login details via a phishing link or phishing PayNow QR codes provided with the email to receive payments. Upon clicking these links or scanning the QR codes, victims would be redirected to spoofed bank websites, where they were tricked into providing their banking details and OTPs in order to receive the payments. Victims would only realise that they have been scammed when they discover unauthorised transactions made from their bank account.

SMSes and Carousell in-app messaging were the most common channels used by the scammers to approach the victims.

E-commerce scams

E-commerce scams generally involve the sale of goods online without delivering the items after payment is made.

There were 2,267 e-commerce scams reported in the first half of 2022 and the total amount cheated was $8.3 million.

The increase in e-commerce scams is largely due to rental scams involving fake property listings, which made up 29.6% of e-commerce scams. Members of the public are advised not to make any payment before viewing the property and to verify the legitimacy of a listing by checking the contact number against the Council for Estate Agencies’ website.

In the majority of e-commerce scams, the scammers would post products for sale at a lower price as compared to the prevailing retail value. Enticed by the pricing, victims would then pay a deposit via bank transfer as required for the purchase of the products, which were not delivered.

The most common platforms used by scammers to communicate with victims include Carousell, Facebook and WhatsApp / Telegram, while the most common items involved in the transactions were house / room rental, Page 5 of 15 electronic goods (e.g. mobile phones, earbuds / earpieces and televisions) and miscellaneous items such as collectibles, trading cards and graphics cards.

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Investment scams

There were 1,683 investment scams reported in the first half of 2022 and the total amount cheated was $108.8 million.

In the majority of investment scams, the scammers would claim to be financial professionals and cultivate victims on online platforms. Once lured, the victims would be introduced by the scammers to investment websites or mobile applications where they would be enticed to invest and asked to transfer money to unknown bank accounts. Victims would also be asked to pay administrative fees, security fees or taxes, in order to reap profits. In many instances, victims would earn a profit from the investment at the initial stage, leading them to believe that the investment was legitimate and lucrative. Once larger amounts of monies had been transferred to the scammers, victims found that they were not able to cash out the earnings and the scammers would become uncontactable. • Instagram, Facebook and Telegram were the most common platforms used by the scammers to approach the victims.

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