180 million scam calls blocked in S’pore in first half of 2023; ScamShield blocked 80,000 phone numbers, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

180 million scam calls blocked in S’pore in first half of 2023; ScamShield blocked 80,000 phone numbers

Telcos here blocked about 180 million suspected scam calls in the first six months of 2023.

And more than 3,700 mobile lines, believed to be used by scammers, were flagged by the police to telcos for termination during the same period.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said this in Parliament on Nov 22.

Ms Sun, who was responding to a question by Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang), said these efforts complement the ScamShield mobile app, which has 750,000 downloads across iOS and Andriod devices as at October.

The number of downloads has risen significantly since August 2022. The police had said then that the app had been downloaded by 300,400 users of iOS devices.

The ScamShield app, which was launched in late-2022, helps individuals filter scam messages and calls from numbers used in illegal activities. These numbers will be blocked if the app determines they have been used for scams.

Ms Sun, who is also Minister of State for Social and Family Development, said the app has been effective in protecting users.

She said since March 2022, it has blacklisted and blocked 80,000 unique scam-tainted phone numbers and flagged about five million SMSes to users as potential scams.

However, the Government will not make it mandatory for the ScamShield app to be pre-installed in new mobile phones for three reasons, said Ms Sun.

First, not all users may consent to having the app pre-installed on their devices.

Second, for the app to work effectively, users have to set up permission setting.

Said Ms Sun: “Even if we were to pre-load the app, if the user does not know how to execute the permission settings, ScamShield will not be able to work effectively.”

Third, there is a possibility that mobile phone users will deactivate or delete the app after it has been installed.

Ms Sun added, however, that the Government will keep this option open if efforts to further encourage the download of the ScamShield app does not make progress.

Between January 2020 and June 2023, victims in Singapore lost about $2 billion to scams.

Globally, scammers stole an estimated US$1.02 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) between August 2022 and August 2023, according to a study by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance and data service provider ScamAdviser.

Responding to a supplementary question by Mr Derrick Goh (Nee Soon GRC), Ms Sun said GovTech is improving the ScamShield app to allow users to report scams more easily.

“GovTech is working to improve the accuracy of scam SMS detection and to help users more easily set up the correct permission settings,” she added.

Ms Sun said the Cyber Security Agency and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) are working to equip people with better cyber hygiene practices. These include downloading apps from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store to protect themselves from malware scams.

In the same vein, the Central Provident Fund announced on Nov 20 that a default online withdrawal limit of $2,000 a day will be applied from Nov 30 to all its members aged 55 and above.

CPF said this default daily limit can be adjusted to any amount, including $0 and up to $200,000, at any time online. Any increases to the daily withdrawal limit however, will be subject to Singpass face verification and a 12-hour cooling period to prevent unauthorised adjustments.

On Oct 25, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and IMDA put out the proposed Shared Responsibility Framework, to address losses arising from scams and how responsibility is apportioned among financial institutions, telcos and consumers.

Under the framework, financial institutions and telcos that fail to carry out their duties properly will be required to reimburse victims of certain phishing scams.

Areas of negligence include failure by banks to send outgoing transaction alerts to consumers or telcos failing to implement a scam filter for SMSes.

SCAMSMinistry of Home AffairscrimeSINGAPORE PARLIAMENT