Friday, 10 June 2016

Over $4 million lost in phone scams since March 2016; Launch of Singapore's National Cybercrime Action Plan on 20 July 2016

Victims duped into remitting money to bank accounts overseas for 'illegal shipments'
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2016

More than $4 million have been lost by victims of phone scams since March, the police said yesterday.

In most cases, the callers impersonate overseas officials who tell potential victims that parcels containing illegal items had been shipped in their names.

Victims are told they must remit money to overseas bank accounts as a fine or a bribe, The Straits Times learnt from those who received such calls.


The police said they had more than 50 reports since March from people who were duped, and hundreds of alerts from concerned members of the public who received the calls.

They said the scam is very similar to fraud cases in Hong Kong and China over the last year.

It is believed the scam originated in China.

In recent cases, scammers have impersonated officers from the Singapore Police Force or staff from local courier companies such as SingPost.

Victims might also receive calls with fake local numbers, informing them that the parcels were delivered to local addresses, making the ruse more believable.

Some have been asked to visit a webpage where they can enter personal information, including details of their online banking accounts.

A 45-year-old lecturer, who declined to be named, told The Straits Times she received a call on Tuesday from an unknown local number. After responding to the automated message about an undelivered parcel from DHL, she was redirected to a man speaking Mandarin who claimed to be a DHL staff.

He told her that the Shanghai police had confiscated illegal goods she had taken to the airport there, and asked for her English and Chinese names.

As she had been a victim of credit card fraud last year, her suspicions were raised.

She recalled: "At first it seemed authentic, but I became suspicious as I had not travelled to Shanghai.

"Also, I have never made online transactions using my Chinese name, so I hung up."

Another woman received a call from a Mandarin-speaking woman who claimed to be a SingPost staff.

The self-employed 31-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Ms Soh, said: "I was alarmed because she knew my name and IC number.

"The woman told me I had used SingPost to mail illegal items to Shanghai and insisted that I talk to Shanghai police."

Ms Soh hung up.

The courier company filed a police report on April 8 and sent out an e-mail alert to customers.

It also posted an advisory on its Facebook page.

SingPost also said it was aware of the scam.

"We have been on high alert for scams and frauds using the SingPost brand name," said a spokesman. "We have also assisted the authorities in creating awareness through posters in our post offices and the distribution of scam awareness brochures."

FedEx declined to comment.

The Straits Times understands the scammers have even called the police as the phone numbers are computer-generated.

Police advised members of the public to ignore unsolicited calls and callers' instructions to transfer money.

"No government agency will inform you to make a payment through a telephone call, especially to a third party's bank account," said the police advisory.

"Do not provide name, identification number, passport details, contact details, bank account or credit card details to the callers. Such information is useful to criminals."

Those with information related to such crimes can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000, or dial 999 for urgent police assistance.


* New national action plan to unite Singapore's efforts against cybercrime
Govt announces new national plan to tackle growing threat of criminals in digital space
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 21 Jul 2016

Cyber criminals are on the prowl, targeting potential victims as diverse as children, the youth and the elderly as well as businesses.

To tackle this growing threat, Singapore will consolidate its multiple efforts against criminals in the digital space under a National Cybercrime Action Plan, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"Around the world today, every aspect of our lives are plugged into the Internet and cloud (computing)... But the more connected we are, the more vulnerable we become to cyber criminals," he added.

"It goes beyond financial loss, to include drug trafficking, child pornography and many other illegal activities," he said, citing the recent case of British paedophile Richard Huckle, who hid pornographic images and videos of at least 23 children using the dark Web. The dark Web is a hard-to-access part of the Internet often used for illegal activity.

The minister was speaking at the opening of this year's RSA Conference Asia-Pacific and Japan. Those who attended included government officials and industry experts.

A key tenet of the plan will be to educate people on how to stay safe in cyberspace, and this will be tailored to suit vulnerable groups like youth and the elderly, he said.

For instance, the revamped Scam Alert website launched yesterday will now be a one-stop resource portal to combat online scams.

Besides providing information on the latest scam methods, it will also be a platform for the public to share personal experiences of scam encounters. Jointly developed by the police and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), this will help officers identify cybercrime trends.

Mr Shanmugam said the NCPC will be launching a virtual children's game called Cyro later this year to further push out these messages. The plan will also emphasise tie-ups with industry experts to develop new capabilities.

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs is working with the private sector to develop malware analysis tools to carry out cybercrime case assessments effectively.

"Singapore is a potential hub for cyber criminals, and small and medium-sized enterprises are most vulnerable. They tend to focus on traditional detection tools, due to limited resources and yet, the nature of malware has evolved," said Athena Dynamics chief executive Ken Soh.

The ministry is also working with Temasek Polytechnic to develop and test cyber security innovations at its new Temasek Advanced Learning, Nurturing and Testing Laboratory (Talent Lab).

Interpol secretary-general Jurgen Stock, speaking on the sidelines of the event, said: "What makes Singapore so interesting is its dynamic and innovative environment, where we can easily connect with tech companies and academia."

The Interpol Global Complex for Innovation - which is located in Singapore - pools the resources of government agencies and industry experts from around the world.

Another focus of the plan will see law enforcement agencies tapping on the latest technology to fight cybercrime. This includes the police force's Digital Evidence Search Tool, which is able to automate the forensic processing of huge amounts of data for digital evidence.

Such efforts will have to be supported by a robust criminal justice framework, in which laws are reviewed often, to ensure that they are relevant and effective.

In April, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act will be amended. MHA said it will also review laws such as the Criminal Procedure Code.

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