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The Simple Pattern of a Scam


I have been watching a lot of law drama series recently on Netflix, and one thing I have learnt from them is that more often than not, human behaviour is subjected to following a pattern. If someone has a pattern of let say hiding evidence, there is a higher chance of them doing so again.


And this is the same when it comes to scam. Because here is the thing – the most common scams follow a simple pattern, and once you understand that, you will be able to easily spot the signs in the future and avoid being a victim yourself!


So what is this simple pattern I am talking about?


#1: Tempting offers


If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. This sign appears in many scam cases such Loan scams, E-commerce scams, Investment scams, Job scams and Money Laundering offences.


Here is how loan scams work:

  • You come across a loan advertisement or loan offer through SMS, messaging apps, social media or online. The lender offers to approve your loan remotely, such as online or via the messaging app itself.

  • Licensed moneylenders can only grant loans physically at their approved places of business and are allowed to advertise via social media, SMS, messaging apps or cold calls.

  • Some loan scammers may impersonate licensed moneylenders by using details such as license numbers to set up fake websites.

  • They demand an upfront payment to secure the loan. Any administrative or processing fees would usually be deducted from the loan principal disbursed to the borrower instead of paying upfront.


Here is how ecommerce scams work:

  • You see a deal online for popular items, often electronic gadgets, that are priced below market rates.

  • The deal is presented as limited time only or an urgent flash deal.

  • The "seller" insists or encourages you to take the conversation off the platform or make payment through direct bank transfers rather than through the payment options offered by the platform.

  • The "seller" account could be set up very recently or has few or no reviews.


Here is how investment scams work:

  • You receive a message out of the blue from someone claiming to be a stockbroker or bank or financial company employee on social networking sites like Facebook, WeChat or Line.

  • You are approached by a financial entity based outside Singapore.

  • You are promised fast, high returns for an investment with little to no risk.


Here is how job scams work:

  • You receive a job offer via SMS, Telegram/WhatsApp messages, Facebook or job recruitment sites for a position such as assistant purchaser, stock taker, affiliate marketer, etc.

  • The job promises lucrative returns for minimal effort.

  • You are asked to transfer money to bank account or cryptocurrency wallet to secure the position.


Here is how money laundering scams work:

  • A stranger befriends you online and asks you to open a new bank account or use an existing bank account to receive money and send money to another person or company overseas.

  • You see an ad online for the position of "agent" for receiving and transferring money.

  • The "employer" has no street address or ACRA details.

  • You are offered commission for helping to conduct transactions using your bank account on behalf of another person.


#2: Unexpected friend requests


Social networking platforms, dating sites and online forums allow scammers to "befriend" you, enter your personal life and access you personal details. Accepting unknown friend requests online can expose you to dangers such as Internet Love scams.


Here is how internet love scams work:

  • You are approached by an attractive person, often a foreigner, online. He or she tells a tale about falling into trouble or hard times.

  • They ask you to transfers money, buy gifts cards, Google Play cards, Steam cards or iTunes cards or invest/receive money as proof of love.

  • They are reluctant to identify themselves via a video call or in-person meet up.


#3: Pay by gift cards or credit


An attractive, unsolicited friend or an online listing may ask you for up-front payments in exchange for escort, massage or sexual services. Watch out for Credit-for-Sex scams.


Here is how Credit-for-Sex scams work:

  • Unsolicited friend request from young, attractive men and women online, often through social media platforms such as WeChat, Tinder or even Facebook

  • Requests for upfront payments in the form of shopping credits or gift cards in exchange for escort, massage or sexual services.

  • Requests to remit money via post offices, wire transfer services or the bank.


#4: Urgent money transfers


Scammers may pressure you into making funds transfers by creating a sense of urgency to do so. By doing so, scammers want victims to react emotionally rather than rationally. This sign may appear in E-commerce scams, Social Media Impersonation scams, China Officials Impersonation scams, Internet Love scams, Credit-for-sex scams or Money Laundering.


Here is how social media impersonation scams work:

  • You receive a message from a "friend" asking you for help. They then ask you to buy iTunes or other gift cards for them.

  • You could also receive a message from a "friend" asking you for bank details and one-time passwords for online shopping accounts to help you claim prizes for lucky draw.

  • You receive a message from a "friend" asking you for your WhatsApp verification code.

  • You have trouble logging into your online account(s)

  • There are unauthorised transactions on your online or bank accounts, or your phone data bill is larger than usual


Here is how china officials impersonation scams work:

  • You receive a call for someone claiming to be a government official, an employee or representative of bank, courier company or renowned organisation.

  • They link you to pending court cases, your mobile number being used in a crime, claim that your Wi-Fi has been compromised, or other urgent request that require your immediate attention.

  • They ask you for your personal particulars, bank account details, and OTPs.

  • They threaten to escalate matters to the police or someone of higher authority if you do not cooperate.

  • Some may sound helpful and offer assistance to help you resolve the impending issues only if you cooperate by giving them what they need.


#5: OTP requests


It's surprisingly easy for scammers to disguise their identity and create believable stories designed to trick you into handling over tour personal details, including confidential information such as your one-time password (OTPs). Look out for this sign in Social Media Impersonation scams, Non-banking and Banking-related Phishing scams and China Officials Impersonation scams.


Here is how phishing scams work:

  • You receive a call informing you that your bank account is facing issues and may be terminated. To resolve that issues, you must provide your personal information such as your bank details and OTP.

  • You receive an email or message from what appears to be your bank asking you to input your bank details and OTP into official looking websites with a slightly different web address.

  • You receive an official looking email or other message with spelling and/or grammar mistakes.


Unsure if it is a scam? Want to heighten your company’s cybersecurity awareness? Click the green button below to contact us today!



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