Banking-related phishing scams spike more than 2,500% in first half of 2020

Banking-related phishing scams spike more than 2,500% in first half of 2020

file photo phone woman 4
A person using a smartphone. (File photo: Xabryna Kek)

SINGAPORE: The total number of banking-related phishing scams increased by more than 2,500 per cent in the first half of this year to 898 cases, compared to 34 cases in the same period in 2019, said the police on Wednesday (Aug 26).  

Banking-related phishing scams recorded the fourth-highest number of reported cases among all scam types, and the total amount cheated increased from S$93,000 to S$3.6 million.

READ: Crime up more than 11% in first half of 2020, mainly due to rise in scam cases

READ: More than S$21.2 million recovered by police's anti-scam centre in first year of operations

Police highlighted an incident in January when a victim was cheated of S$506,000, making it the largest sum cheated in a single case in the first half of this year. 

The victim had provided his one-time passwords (OTPs) to scammers who claimed to be employees from local banks, said the police. 

The scammers told the victim that his accounts have been hacked and they needed his OTPs to disable his bank accounts.

"In the majority of these cases, victims were tricked into disclosing Internet banking usernames, personal identification numbers (PIN) and OTPs to scammers posing as bank staff," said the police in a news release. 

Mid-year crime stats 2020

Police warned that platforms like IMO, Viber and WhatsApp were also commonly used by these scammers to communicate with their victims. 

READ: Crime up more than 11% in first half of 2020, mainly due to rise in scam cases

READ: Police warn of phishing scams after nearly 30-fold spike in cases

Overall crime in Singapore rose by about 11 per cent in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, mainly due to a rise in scam cases, said the police. 

"Criminals have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation to find new victims, by exploiting the public’s fear and sense of uncertainty.

"This is evident from the significant increase in online scam cases reported in the first half of 2020," said the authorities.

E-COMMERCE SCAMS REMAIN TOP SCAM TYPE

E-commerce scams, social media impersonation scams, loan scams and banking-related phishing scams are "of particular concern", said the authorities, with these types of scams making up 71 per cent of the top 10. 

E-commerce scams remain the top scam type - reported cases increased by 73.8 per cent from 1,202 in the first half of last year to 2,089 on year. 

The total amount cheated increased to S$5.4 million, up from S$1 million in the same period last year, with the largest sum of S$175,000 cheated in a single case on an e-commerce marketplace. 

The common scam transactions involved sales of electronic items, gaming-related items and COVID-19 related items such as face masks and hand sanistisers, said the authorities. 

SOCIAL MEDIA IMPERSONATION SCAMS SURGE

Social media impersonation scams recorded the second-highest number of reported cases among all scams. 

The number of cases reported jumped by more than 1,300 per cent, from 83 cases in the first half of last year to 1,175 in the same period in 2020.

READ: More than 180 investigated over scams involving S$1.5 million

top 10 scams Singapore first half of 2020
Top ten scam types in Singapore based on number of reported cases. (Table: Singapore Police Force)

In April, a total of S$367,000 was cheated off one victim in a social media impersonation scam, said the police. 

The victim said she had transferred about S$367,000 to an unknown person after she responded to a link on a purported monetary grant sent by her friend via Facebook messenger. 

She had also provided her personal details such as her bank account, the police added. 

In the majority of social media impersonation scams, victims were tricked into disclosing their mobile numbers or credit card information and OTPs to scammers who used compromised or spoofed social media accounts to impersonate their victims' friends or followers, the police said. 

"Scammers would often claim to help their victims sign up for online contests or promotions which turned out to be fake.

"Their victims would later discover that unauthorised transactions had been made from their bank accounts or mobile wallets," added the police. 

Instagram and Facebook were the most common social media platforms where such scams took place, with 578 cases and 575 cases reported respectively. 

LOAN SCAMS REMAIN A CONCERN

The total number of loan scam cases and amount cheated also saw "significant increases" in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2019. 

Loan scams increased by 56 per cent to 1,014 cases, up from 650 in the same period last year. 

The total amount cheated more than tripled, from S$1.9 million in the first half of 2019 to S$6.5 million on year.

"Business operators such as banks, digital platform owners and telcos have a responsibility to prevent, deter and detect crimes committed through their platforms," said the authorities.

"Putting in place anti-scam measures and precautions against crimes will also help business operators keep their customers safe from scams."

Source: CNA/ad(ta)

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