Inter-ministry committee set up in SG to combat online scams

 

An inter-ministry committee on scams has been set up to combat online frauds. Comprising the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Trade and Industry, and other members, the unit will focus on deterring potential perpetrators, mitigating the losses incurred by victims and ensuring the public is vigilant and wary of scams.

This comes at a time the Singapore police revealed that there has been a 50% surge in scam cases, pushing the overall crime rate to its highest in nine years. According to the statistics, scammers took more than SG$160 million from victims last year. The significant rise in police reports of scams have mostly been online scams.

At a Budget debate in the parliament, Sun Xueling, senior parliamentary secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of National Development said the inter-ministry committee will be in line with MHA’s efforts to tackle tech-enabled crimes. According to Sun, technology has changed the way in which criminals operate, as social media platforms offer criminals a new means of targeting victims. She explained that as foreign syndicates use the Internet and spoof technology to obscure their identity and conduct illegal activities, the government’s enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments.

The committee will primarily coordinate approaches and efforts across government, and pool resources. However, Sun added that the government cannot combat scams alone, and will require businesses to play a role in stepping up efforts. These businesses particularly include eCommerce platforms and banks, which are more likely to be exploited by scammers, causing monetary losses to customers.

“We will work closely with such businesses to put in place upstream measures to limit the ability of criminals to do harm. That said, the best defence against scams continues to be a discerning public,” she said.  

As such, the government urges the public to be sceptical of incredulous promises, to utilise escrow accounts provided by the platforms for transaction where possible, and to check with the authorities when approached by dubious people purporting to be government officials.

The inter-ministry committee will work similarly as the anti-scam centre set up by the Singapore police in 2019 to mitigate the losses of victims.

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