No 'magic bullet' against scams, says Shanmugam as MHA ramps up efforts to protect Singaporeans

No 'magic bullet' against scams, says Shanmugam as MHA ramps up efforts to protect Singaporeans
PHOTO: Screengrab/YouTube/MCI

When it comes to preventing scams, there is no "magic bullet or ironclad shield", said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam.?

In a speech at MHA's Committee of Supply debate?in Parliament on Thursday (Feb 29), he unveiled the ministry's?priorities for the year ahead?— dealing with scams; tackling drug abuse among youths?and resourcing of the Home Team.?

Although Singapore's physical crime and drug situations remain "relatively stable", scams were the main driver of crime in 2023, said Shanmugam.?

Last year alone, there were over 46,000 reported scam cases, with victims losing more than $650 million in total.?

This was a nearly 50 per cent?increase from 2022, he noted.?

"The most effective way to tackle scams is to prevent them from taking place at all," Shanmugam said.

To combat scams?the government has been working together with partners such as telcos and banks?to strengthen Singapore's communications and banking channels, digital systems and online platforms.?

One of these measures is the Police Anti-Scam Command, or AsCom, which works with?more than 100 partners from financial institutions and online platforms.?

Delving deeper into these measures in her speech,?Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that this initiative was recently expanded to include Carousell staff.?

"As a result, the turnaround time for taking down online monikers involved in scams and suspicious advertisements on Carousell has now been reduced from days to hours," she told the House.?

Do right by your users, Sun urges Meta?

Sun added that MHA and the police have been engaging online platforms, especially those which are exploited by scammers.?

Although platforms like Carousell and Shopee have been willing to cooperate with the authorities, Sun said that Meta has "consistently pushed back" against MHA's recommendations to combat e-commerce scams on Facebook.?

The?safeguards recommended by MHA include verifying users against Government-issued ID, and offering a secure payment option for Marketplace users.?

Meta products, in particular Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, were among the top online platforms exploited by scammers last year.?

"They accounted for 43 per cent of scam cases in 2023, or about $280 million of losses," Sun said.?

"I urge Meta to step up, to do right by your users."

On top of existing measures, the gradual implementation?of the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) will grant police powers to issue directions to online platforms to prevent scam accounts and content from reaching or interacting with Singapore users.?

The Ministry will also be rolling out new laws to punish the abuse of local SIM cards for scams.?

This comes after the police and the Infocomm Media Development Authority's?announcement that individuals will only be able to register up to 10 post-paid SIM cards.?

Other measures to fight scams?

Apart from the government's efforts, Sun stressed in her speech that public education remains key in Singapore's fight against scams.

"Our best defence is an aware, watchful and discerning public," she said.

To boost public education, related resources will be consolidated into an one-stop portal on scams this year. The website will provide scam victims information on where to seek support.?

The government will also be looking into additional measures to better protect unwitting members of the public, including those who refuse to believe that they are being scammed, said Sun.?

These might be victims of love scams or investment scams, where victims have invested affection or?significant sums of money, making it hard for them to remove themselves from the situation.?

READ ALSO:?Singapore to develop tools to detect deepfakes and scams under new $20m initiative

claudiatan@asiaone.com

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