The Most Common Types of Online Scams Targeting Singaporeans

When it comes to ranking the world’s safest countries, Singapore seems to have its place permanently reserved at the top of the list. In 2023, the Global Peace Index (GPI) placed the city-state in sixth place, beating Japan (at 9th place)—the only other Asian country in this top 10 list.

In terms of crime rate, Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. According to the Singapore Police Force, during the first half of 2023, only 10,000 physical crimes were reported in the country. For a nation with a population of 5.454 million, this is an impressively low figure.

While physical crimes are incredibly low in Singapore, cybercriminality is on the rise. Data from the Singapore Police Force revealed that scams and cybercrimes increased by 69.4 percent during the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022. From 14,481 cases in 2022, it increased to 24,525 cases in 2023. While it’s still low compared to other countries, the rising trend is a concern for Singaporean authorities.

Living in Singapore, it’s easy to take your security for granted. However, when you go online, all bets are off. Whether you’re in the world’s safest country or the world’s most crime-ridden place, cybercriminals are waiting to hook you into their traps. So, be vigilant and don’t allow yourself to fall victim to their scams. Learn about the most common online scams Singapore citizens and residents face these days.

Job Scam

In the Singapore Police Force report on scams and cybercrimes, job scams were the most common crimes reported during the first half of 2023. At that time, 5,737 cases were reported, and SGD 79.4 million were stolen by the scammers.

In this scam, fraudsters pose as recruiters or employers offering lucrative job opportunities. They send unsolicited messages to their victims via social media apps and other messaging apps. These scams come in various forms, including affiliate marketing roles where you’re asked to buy products upfront to boost sales or agent positions involving processing fund transfers through your personal bank account.

Don’t be tempted by job offers from people you don’t personally know. Seek work opportunities offered by legitimate companies or posted on legitimate job-hunting websites.

E-Commerce Scam

As the second most common scam according to the Singapore Police Force, e-commerce scams cost victims over SGD 7.3 million. During the first half of 2023, there were a total of 4,516 cases reported to the police. These scams often involve fraudulent sellers on legitimate e-commerce websites.

In most cases, scammers advertise expensive products, such as gadgets and appliances, at attractively low prices to lure unsuspecting buyers. However, after payment is made, the goods may never arrive, or they may turn out to be counterfeit or of poor quality.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, it’s essential to verify the credibility of sellers and read reviews from other buyers.

Fake Friend Scam

At 17.3 percent, the fake friend scam is the third most common online crime from the Singapore Police’s data on scams and cybercrimes. There were about 3,855 cases reported during from January to June 2023, with the total amount fleeced from the victims reaching SGD 12 million.

In a typical fake friend scam, a potential victim receives a call or message from someone pretending to be their friend. After some interactions, the scammer gains the trust of the victim. Then, they exploit their trust by soliciting money or personal information.

Avoid this scam altogether by refusing to entertain calls, messages, and friend requests from strangers or even from people who purport to be someone you know. Always verify through other means if you really received a friend request from what appears to be family, friend, or acquaintance. For good measure, block the numbers or profiles immediately if you confirm them to be fake, especially if they start asking for financial assistance.

Phishing Scam

In the first half of 2023, 2,991 cases of phishing scams were reported in Singapore, with victims being cheated a total of  SGD 7.4 million. It’s a type of social engineering attack designed to deceive victims into giving up sensitive information about themselves or the company they work for.

Phishing scams often start as an email, text, or message purporting to be from a legitimate institution like a bank or utility company. These messages often contain urgent requests or warnings designed to prompt recipients to act impulsively and provide their personal details, leading to ransomware or malware attacks.

Vigilance is key in identifying phishing attempts, which can often be distinguished by grammatical errors or suspicious links.

Investment Scam

One of the most lucrative scams for cybercriminals is the investment scam. With 1,598 cases reported from January to June 2023 in Singapore, investment scams took a staggering SGD 97 million from their victims.

Investment scammers prey on individuals seeking lucrative investment opportunities. To entice their victim to give up their money, fraudsters promise impossibly high returns and guaranteed profits.

Some fraudsters may befriend you online before offering “investment opportunities” to you. In other scenarios, they may pretend to be from legitimate banks or stock brokerage firms.

Common warning signs include pressure to make quick decisions and ROI that’s simply to good to be true. So, before investing your hard-earned money, do thorough research and read reviews of any financial instrument offered to you.

Protecting yourself from online scams requires vigilance, scepticism, and awareness of common tactics used by fraudsters. So, stay informed and follow the best practices for online safety. Remember to trust your instincts, verify the credibility of individuals and organisations, and report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities. Together, we can create a safer online environment for all citizens and residents of Singapore.


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