Scam victims in Singapore lost a total of $660.7 million in 2022. Almost $1.3 billion was lost to scams in the past two years.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the elderly who falls prey to scams. More than 53% of scam victims were between 20 and 39 years old.
Phishing scams were the most common ruse in 2022. Scammers impersonate officials or trusted entities to trick victims into revealing their credit card details and bank account information.
Here are some of the other types of scams to watch out for. Beware!
This article was written by a Financial Horse Contributor.
1. Love/Romance Scams
Love and romance scams have exploded since the pandemic, as scammers target lonely individuals.
A new way they’re doing it, is to claim to give you money.
These “love interests” offer to pay your bills or give you money.
The catch is that as you deposit the cheque, they will also ask you to transfer money and by the time you realize the original cheque doesn’t clear you’d have already transferred money.
Otherwise, they will claim to need access to your accounts to give you money.
Romance scams claimed US$139 million from adults age 60 and older in 2020, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission.
The romance scam usually follows the following playbook:
Scammer poses as a professional working abroad.
They target lonely people and establish a bond by creating an imagined future with them. Eventually they plan an in-person meeting that depends on the victim’s willingness to part with money.
“I’ve seen elders mortgage their houses, borrow large sums of money from their neighbors, empty out their retirement accounts,” said Michael Delaney, a Chicago-based lawyer who specializes in elder law.
“Despite showing incontrovertible evidence that the person they think they’re in love with isn’t who they say they are and the money isn’t being used for what they say it’s being used for, they will defend that exploiter through anything,” says Delaney, an elder law specialist.
2. Family Scams
We’ve all heard of the “kidnapping” calls.
But now scammers are getting more sophisticated in posing as family members.
“Mum and dad” scams: parents receive WhatsApp texts from their children, asking for money to cover an unexpected cash crisis. The message would say the child had lost or broken their phone and was using a temporary number.
“Parents” scam: scammers impersonate elderly parents who aren’t good with technology, asking for help.
3 in 5 impersonation frauds now claim to be from a family member, according to data from UK bank TSB.
By contrast, just 13% of impersonation scams claim to come from your bank, 4% from tax authorities and 4% from online retail giant Amazon.
Cases where family members are used as bait account for 40% of all losses from impersonation scams, TSB says.
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3. Gambling Scams
Gambling scams are also common, as e-gambling has taken off and regulators are scrambling to keep this in check.
“In fake gambling platform scams, victims often befriend scammers through online dating platforms before they are introduced to online betting applications or websites,” said the police.
In some instances, the scammers will convince victims that these online betting platforms have loopholes which allow those placing bets to reap easy profits.
In Singapore, a 41 year old Chinese woman scammed people of over USD 1.5 million, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The con artist promised victims that their money would be invested into Chinese gamblers who come to play at Singaporean casinos.
DPP Tan said Wu deceived them with fictitious investment schemes to provide visitors who are Chinese nationals with Singapore currency for their expenditure here, particularly for gambling in local casinos.
The scammer managed to con several individuals in Singapore, and also two local celebrities.
4. Job Search Scams
Job search scams are aplenty these days.
They take advantage of people in their moment of financial weakness as they look for jobs.
Scams are varied, but most include messages on Whatsapp offering jobs of fake employment.
Then they’ll ask you to complete tasks (e.g. liking a video on YouTube) – which is actually a form of bot farming (where people buy likes).
Another red flag is being asked to pay to get the job opportunity. For instance, you are asked to pay for a company-specific certification.
Other red flags include being asked for your bank information before your interview, being asked to deposit a cheque or transfer money.
5. Ponzi Scams
Ponzi scams are the age-old scam, and they still persist in the 21st century!
Ponzi schemes are getting more and more sophisticated.
Even the shrewdest people fall for such scams. For instance, Bernie Madoff cost investors bilions of dollars.
Known as the “Mormon Ponzi scheme“, more than 900 people invested nearly $500 million between 2017 and 2022 into a Ponzi scheme. The two fraudsters were a Las Vegas lawyer and a real investor and pharmaceutical salesman (who was Mormon).
The deal was that they would offer bridge loans for slip-and-fall victims awaiting their settlements. People who loaned money to them were promised very high returns in a short amount of time, but these slip-and-fall victims actually didn’t exist.
More than 900 people investered their savings, including surgeons, real estate developers, Mormon bishops, retirees and stay-at-home mothers, mostly from the US, but also from Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in July.
Many victims were Mormons. “We were a little nervous, but we trusted him…. “Because we were friends and belonged to the same church, the red flags were heart-shaped. I was like, ‘Wow. We are really lucky to be involved in this investment.’” said one investor.
6. Crypto Scams
Cybercriminals are using crypto to attract victims, as people are less versed in the ways of the crypto world, and once stolen, it is difficult to get your monies back.
Scammers promise high returns on investments, with little-to-no risk. These crypto scams often use social media ads and fake endorsements by celebrities.
Their goal is for you to use your money to buy cryptocurrencies and then have you transfer the crypto to them – or handover control – under the guise of helping you multiply your investment.
Since crypto has payment anonymity, once the transaction is complete, it’s virtually impossible to trace the funds and recover the money.
7. E-Commerce Scams
E-commerce scams generally involve crooks posting products for sale on shopping platforms, but the goods are not delivered.
The most common platforms where victims encountered e-commerce scammers were Carousell, Facebook and Shopee, according to the Singapore Police Force. Most cases involved transactions of electronic goods, rental units and gaming-related items.
Lovers of wagyu beef and other exotic food items should also beware of e-commerce food scams.
Scammers entice victims by posting fake offers of food items on online platforms such as Facebook and TikTok.
After confirming price and order details, the victims would make payment to the seller’s bank account.
In some cases, victims would be redirected to fraudulent websites, where they would key in their credit/debit card details and one-time password to pay for the orders.
They would realise they have been scammed only when they discover they have not received the goods, or when unauthorised transactions are found in their bank accounts or credit card bills.
8. Scammed by a “Friend”
It’s probably the most hurtful to be scammed by a friend, and unfortunately this is also on the rise.
According to the Straits Times, fake friend call scam reports spiked by more than 200% in Singapore, where victims lost almost $8.8m in 2022.
The police said fake friend call scams typically involve a scammer calling a victim from an unknown number and pretending to be his friend or acquaintance.
The caller would ask the victim questions like “can you guess who I am?” and “you can’t remember me?”. The victim would reply with the names of friends he believed could be the caller.
The caller would then assume the identity of one of the friends mentioned and claim to have lost his mobile phone or changed his contact number.
Capitalising on the element of friendship, the scammer would use various reasons to ask for money from the victim, who would then transfer a sum to the crooks, believing that he was helping a friend.
The police said that phone calls and WhatsApp were the most common channels used by scammers to contact potential victims.
“In these cases, the scammer may… appeal to the kindness of the victims, who may feel compelled to help a friend. From victim statements, many said that because the caller sounded like their friend, they were convinced that it was a genuine request for help,” he said.
The police noted that such scammers tend to contact victims directly through phone calls and not on social media.
CAD Director noted, “This tells us that scammers are constantly evolving their tactics to find other ways to get hold of victims. And that is why it is so important for us to get the message out there about this (type of) scam, so people can be vigilant and prepared.”
Another notable example, is where a Chinese woman was scammed of US$138,000 of luxury goods from her home.
Her so-called “best friend” switched out luxury goods, including bags, watches and jewellery, for fakes.
This was done over 3 years, and finally, when the victim started realizing something was amiss with her luxury items, she reported the crime to the police, who eventually arrested her “best friend”. The swindler was sentenced to 12-years in jail.
Any good advice to share to avoid scammers? Comment below!