'Scams are like cockroaches, they keep evolving', Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

'Scams are like cockroaches, they keep evolving'

After an elderly resident in MacPherson fell prey to an investment scheme supposedly endorsed by then Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, he nearly lost several thousand dollars in fraudulent credit card charges. 

But after approaching his MP Tin Pei Ling for help, the man managed to get the charges waived with his bank’s help.

The man had only a “few hundred dollars” in his savings account, almost half of which he had invested in the fake investment plan, the MacPherson MP said.

Following this and other reports of residents continuing to fall for scams despite attempts to raise awareness about common scam tactics, Ms Tin told The Straits Times more needs to be done.

Ms Tin – who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information – has, together with four other MPs, filed a motion on building a safe digital society. It will be debated in Parliament on Jan 9. 

“We may not be able to totally stamp out such risk or threats because they’re like cockroaches; they somehow just keep evolving. But if we can do more, and everyone (is) willing to take on a larger share of the responsibility, we probably can protect more people, and reduce the harms or the damage to the ordinary citizen,” said Ms Tin told ST on Jan 8.

The other MPs who filed the motion are Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC), Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Alex Yam and Ms Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC). They are also part of the GPC.

Ms Tin noted that while Singapore continues its journey to digitalise, she and her fellow MPs have observed challenges, including scams, that undermine the public’s confidence and trust towards digital transactions.

Aside from the resident who fell victim to the fake endorsement using Mr Tharman’s name, Ms Tin recounted how she was notified about a man pretending to be her brother on Telegram to get people to invest in a fraudulent scheme. She filed a police report, and the account and group were shut down.

Ms Tin said the MPs have made 13 calls to action, which she will reveal during the debate.

Shedding some light on what this entails, she said: “We are trying to push the Government to do more... to lead in some of the areas, in terms of getting corporations and private entities to share more information, for example, to be more transparent with their products and offerings, so that we can be more prepared for some of the risks of scams (or) malware.”

Ms Tin added that these corporations should also pull their weight and take on a more equitable share of the responsibility in terms of detection, deterrence and protection.

She urged members of the public to work together to promote greater awareness, and educate and empower vulnerable segments of the population, so that they will not be disadvantaged as Singapore progresses digitally.