SINGAPORE: Victims have lost at least S$6 million so far this year to phone scammers claiming to be technical support staff, said the Singapore Police Force in a news release on Friday (Nov 15).
From January to October 2019, police received at least 156 reports of such scams, which involved the culprits pretending that the victim's computers needed repairing.
October saw at least 50 victims falling prey to a variant of this scam, with culprits impersonating staff from telecommunication service providers like Singtel and StarHub or police officers in order to gain remote access to the victims' computers.
They would make unsolicited phone calls to the victims and deceive them into believing there were issues with their modem or Internet connection. They would then direct the victims to download and install software applications such as Teamviewer and AnyDesk onto their computer, fooling the victims into thinking that doing so would allow the "repairmen" to resolve their computer's issues.
Police said there were also cases of scammers claiming to be from the "Cyber Crime Department of Singapore" or "Cyber Police of Singapore" who would make victims think they had committed a crime.
They would then direct the victims to download and install the software applications, saying this would help with the investigations.
Once the software applications were installed, the scammers would access the victim's computers remotely and request victims to log in to their online bank accounts.
The scammers would then transfer funds out of the victims' bank accounts without their consent.
STEPS TO TAKE
Police advised those who have fallen prey to such scams to immediately turn off their computer to stop further activities on their computer and report the incident to their bank to halt further activities on their bank accounts.
They should also change their iBanking credentials and remove any unauthorised payees.
Victims are advised not to give One-Time Passwords or OTPs for banking transactions to the other party, and to report the incident to the police.
The authorities also recommended several preventive measures.
"Beware of unsolicited calls from persons claiming that they are staff of telecommunication service providers or from a government agency, even if they claim there are issues with your telecommunication devices or allege that you are implicated in a criminal offence," said police.
"Scammers may use Caller ID spoofing technology to mask the actual phone number and display a different number," they warned.
"Do not panic," said police, adding that members of the public should not follow instructions to install applications on their computer or log in to their bank accounts. They should also not provide their name, identification number, passport details, contact details or bank account and credit card details when these are requested by the caller.
"When in doubt, always call the official hotline of your telecommunication service provider to verify," said police, who also recommended talking to a trusted friend or relative before acting because victims are often "overwhelmed by emotion and (may) err in (their) judgment".
"No telecommunication service provider or government agency will request for personal details or access to your online bank account and do transfer of money over the phone or through automated voice machines," police reminded.