Tuesday 22 November 2016

New anti-scam helpline to tackle rise in scams

Crime prevention council's phone line starts today; commercial crimes rise 9% to over 4,000 in first half of 2016
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2016

From today, the public can call a new helpline that will help them identify scams, in an initiative that was started by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday launched the helpline at the annual Festive Season Crime Prevention Campaign held at Rivervale Plaza in Sengkang.

Mr Tan Kian Hoon, chairman of NCPC, said scams evolve rapidly.

"For those who do not have access to the Internet, it might take some time before they hear of it from their friends or loved ones," he said.

In a speech, Mr Tan said that in the first nine months of this year, people here were swindled into paying $21 million in a scam that involved people impersonating officials from China.

Quoting figures from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Tan said the number of commercial crimes for the first six months of this year rose 9 per cent to over 4,000 cases, compared to the same period last year.

To further create awareness, a television commercial starring local actor Li Nanxing will highlight three common scams in Singapore: Impersonation scams, Internet love scams and credit-for-sex scams.

Produced by NCPC and the police, the commercial drives home the anti-scam message with the tagline: "Don't panic. Don't believe. Don't give."

Mr Tan said other efforts include a scam alert website set up by NCPC which has been visited more than 400,000 times since 2014. He said there are also lift decals at 1,200 HDB blocks.

He added that NCPC has also worked closely with stakeholders, such as banks and remittance agencies, and conducted roadshows to educate the public on scams.

NCPC vice-chairman Gerald Singham said Singapore residents, especially the elderly, tend to be trusting, and may not know who to turn to if they are targeted.

He said there is an average of 22 victims of scams each day, and the loss is about $120,000 a day, which he described as "worrying".

"It is a battle and a challenge that we have on our hands, but even more so we've got to try to create education and awareness in our residents," he said.

Madam Carol Chng, 63, a retiree, said the helpline is helpful.

"My mother is losing her memory and may be taken in by these scams. Creating awareness through such events helps us look out for any signs that she may be a victim."

The helpline, 1-800-722-6688, will be in operation from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, except on public holidays.

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