4 ways to protect yourself from getting scammed
Since the start of the “circuit breaker”, you may have gone online more often to buy groceries, set up your home office and so on. We’re also spending more time online catching up with family and loved ones.
While COVID-19 has dominated our conversations, there is another danger that is always lurking - scams. We may be familiar with email scams involving Nigerian princes or British grandmothers wanting to share their fortunes. But online scams have evolved - some of the top scams involve impersonating people, loans and investments, and victims have lost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
You may have read about them. It’s easy to go: I won’t fall for that! But with a huge surge in scams, which accounted for more than a quarter of crimes in Singapore last year, there’s no harm in taking a few steps to protect yourself.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Confirm - and double confirm - someone’s identity
There are plenty of safe-distancing enforcement officers walking around during this circuit breaker period, and you may have bumped into them on your outings to grab food and groceries. If anyone approaches you out of the blue claiming you have violated safe-distancing regulations, make sure they are wearing a red armband1. You also will not be asked to hand over your fine on the spot. It’s perfectly fine to ask a few questions to confirm the person’s identity.
Similarly, it pays off to be wary of anomalies in the online world. For example, if you receive a sudden friend request from someone you are already friends with, it could be a scam account impersonating that person - and they could be looking for valuable information from you, such as a one-time password (OTP) that could lead to you losing money.
If you receive a suspicious Facebook friend request or follow request on Instagram followed by a message asking for your mobile number, take a pause and drop your friend a message to check if it’s really them.
2. Guard your One Time Password
Would you hand the keys to your door to anyone? That’s how you should view OTPs: only you should have access to them.
There are many different methods scammers are using to get OTPs these days. Besides pretending to be your friend and asking you to hand over your OTP, scammers can also say they’re helping you claim a prize (that may or may not exist) or solve technical issues - both of which do not require another person to know your OTP. They may use pressure tactics to persuade or stress you into giving in to their demands.
It could start with a phone call claiming you need to pick up a parcel or help a loved one at the police station. Before picking up calls from unknown numbers, check if the number includes a plus sign prefix. Thanks to new regulations2, all overseas calls will come with the plus sign prefix - and if it is a local call, no prefix should be included. So if the international code starts with +65, you should not even pick up.
The dangers in sharing OTPs are endless. You can liken the experience to a person knocking on your front door, claiming to be answering an enquiry to fix your Wi-Fi when no such enquiry was made, and asking you to let them in.
If you would not allow any physical intruders to enter the very place you store your possessions, you should be equally alert when guarding your assets online. Just remember, like your keys, your OTP should only be for your use.
3. Recognise Phishing Attempts
You might have seen such emails or text messages before, asking you to “Click here and claim your prize!”. But if an offer or invitation seems too good to be true, it probably is. Click-through links through hooks of such claims are just scams waiting to happen. Your user ID, password, PIN and card details should never be shared with any third party. Emails or texts that look like official POSB or government requests should always be crosschecked via their respective websites.
Nowadays, COVID-19 is such a buzzword that it’s sure to grab the attention of anyone. If you receive a text or a call from a supposed government official asking for your financial details for contact tracing, please do not hesitate to verify the call with the MOH COVID-19 enquiry hotline at 1800 333 9999.
4. Stay safe both physically and digitally
In this time where we are all encouraged to stay home, your banking needs are still well taken care of using our apps or our internet banking services, where every transaction will require authentication before it can proceed. Your banking safety is our priority - our staff would never ask for you to authenticate transactions over the phone.
If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud or notice any suspicious card transactions, do not hesitate to call POSB’s fraud hotline at 1800-339-6963 or 6339-6963 (Overseas). You can also provide further information to the police online, or by calling 1800-255-0000.
Not sure if something is a scam? You can refer to this online portal or call Singapore’s anti-scam hotline to find out: 1800-722-6688. It is important to know that even as scams become more prevalent, there is no need to stay away from online transactions altogether. There is always something you can do to prevent or foil scams. Keep our tips in mind, ask questions when you are unsure, stay home and stay safe!