12 Common Scams in Singapore

Updated: Jun 18

Tell me if this is not true. You probably have read many stories about people being scammed in Singapore. But here’s the thing. You probably think that that will never happen to you. Am I right? I mean, what are the chances that you would unwittingly fall victim to such scams?

But in reality, more than S$7 million has been lost to scammers posing as technical support staff in the first four months of this year, an increase of more than 40 times from the same period last year!

So before we fall prey to any more of these cons and tricks, we should definitely familiarize ourselves with some common scams in Singapore and how to avoid them:

#1: Cheating involving E-commerce Scams

From January to May 2020, there has been a total of 2,467 cases, with losses amounting to $3,280,751.

The scam:

Tempted by what seems like too good a deal to pass online? Don’t click it! E-commerce scams have proved to be the most common in the first three months of this year, with “COVID-19 related items” accounting for about one in four such cases. Also, there were more than 530 victims losing at least S$380,000 to fraudulent sellers due to e-commerce scams involving electronic products. Imagine that!

How to avoid:

Always use a trusted shopping platform or transact ONLY with people you trust. Be mindful of the appearance of the website that you’re on to avoid phishing websites (it may look real to trick you into disclosing your account information).

#2: Social Media Impersonation Scam

From January to May 2020, there has been a total of 1,033 cases, with losses amounting to $2,602,056.

The scam:

Most of us were taught as kids never to trust strangers, much less give up any personal information. But when it comes to familiar faces, we let our guard down and scammers know this well enough to take advantage of it. We might not even think twice about giving phone numbers or, worse, a few hundred dollars!

But here’s the thing, scammers often use compromised of fake social media accounts to impersonate as the victim’s friends or followers on social accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. Be mindful if a “friend” asks for your personal details such as mobile number, OTP, or internet banking account details. These important information may be used by scammers to make unauthorised and fraudulent transactions. One common tactic by these impostors is to ask for pictures of your credit or debit card and your OTPs because they’re trying to “help you sign up for lucky draws” on Lazada or Shopee.

In fact, in March 2020 alone, the Police received at least 206 reports of social media impersonation scams where victims were tricked into disclosing their mobile number and Grab One-Time Password (OTP) to scammers!

How to avoid:

If you have a childhood friend or acquaintance suddenly sliding into your DMs asking for your number after 5 years of no interaction, well then, let me tell you this – they ain’t your friend. And red flags should immediately be up and flying high. But just to ensure that you are not ghosting a genuine friend, double check that their handles are spelt correctly and that photos have been posted over a period of time.

Another quick check if they’re genuinely your friend is to text their mobile number directly and ask if it’s them. If they’re a long lost friend whose number you no longer have, ask them a trick question like how’s (insert fake family member’s name here).

#3: Loan Scams

From January to May 2020, there has been a total of 848 cases, with losses amounting to $4,688,581.

The scam:

With the economy badly hit by the effects of COVID-19, millions of people around the world, including in Singapore, have lost their jobs and sources of income. Those who are looking for quick solutions to their financial problems may easily fall prey to loan scams.

Scams like this generally start with a too-good-to-be-true loans and loan services on messaging platforms. But did you know that it is illegal for licensed moneylenders to advertise via SMS or WhatsApp?

Scammers may ask for your personal information such as your identity card number, SingPass details, and bank account numbers. These information will be used to harass or threaten victims for payment.

How to avoid:

If you receive messages offering loans, ignore and block it. And remember to stay alert!

#4: Credit-for-Sex Scams

From January to May 2020, there has been a total of 404 cases, with losses amounting to $2,788,796.

The scam:

In this scam, a stranger befriends her victim through social media platforms. The scammer talks the victim into buying them a purchase or gift card (e.g. Alipay Purchase Cards, iTunes cards, etc) in exchange for a meet-up, date or sexual favours.

How to avoid:

Lookout for friend requests from strangers on social media platforms, especially if they are offering escort, massage or sexual services. Do an image search of the person’s photo to verify their identity. Do not give out your personal details to strangers on the internet. Do not provide payment receipts containing details such as PINs or credit card numbers to anyone.

#5: Internet Love Scams

From January to May 2020, there has been a total of 345 cases, with losses amounting to $11,426,935.

The scam:

After befriending an attractive person online, he or she tells a tale about falling into trouble or hard times. The scammer persists with the story to gain their victim’s trust and adoration, then asks for money as proof of love. Once the money is transferred, the scammer disappears.

How to avoid:

Look out for strangers you befriend online. Know the tell-tale signs of a fake dating profile: poor grammar that doesn’t fit with their stated level of education or a fake photo sourced from the internet are just some of the warning signs. People who shower you with loving words and profess strong feelings for you even before you meet or quickly after being acquainted online are also one to look out for. Remember that scammers prey on emotions to lull victims into a false relationship!

So, do not respond to any requests for money, even if they sound desperate or troubled. Do not send money to people you do not know well, especially if you have never met in person. Meet all requests for money with a cool head. Be in control of your emotions knowing that it could be a scam. Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act. You may be overwhelmed by emotions, which can cloud your judgment. Do not reveal too much about yourself, particularly in the form of photos or videos, which could be used to blackmail you.

#6: Whatsapp scams

The scam:

Virtually every Singaporean uses WhatsApp, so of course scammers have taken to the platform. Scammers are reportedly taking over WhatsApp accounts. They do this by hijacking accounts and then using them to contact potential victims, asking them to transfer money, buy gift cards and so on.

In order to hijack accounts, they use a compromised account to send messages to friends of that account holder asking for their WhatsApp verification code. Once they get hold of the verification code, they proceed to take over the friend’s WhatsApp account, too.

How to avoid:

When getting such a request, always be cautious of giving any sort of information to anyone (friend or not)! To double check, you can always call the person’s mobile number up to ask if he or she is indeed requesting for a verification code.