Scams are a worrying blight in Singapore society today. In 2022, over S$660 million was lost to scams, with young adults aged 20 to 39 most likely to be scammed.
A large portion of cuts submitted by our PAP MPs in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) Committee of Supply debate today (Feb 27, 2023) was devoted to the issue of scams.
Legislation and education to combat increasingly “insidious” scams
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir SMC) highlighted how scams have become more “insidious”, evolving from simple phishing operations to scams that operate long-term, “slowly cheating not only money, but also causing great emotional turmoil to its victims”.
Calling for greater Government support in working with industry partners such as financial institutions, Mr Sitoh asked the Home Affairs Minister for the following information:
1. the steps that the Government is taking to address the threat of scams in the community;
2. whether the Ministry has plans to strengthen legislation to combat scams;
3. the efforts that are being made to educate and keep the public informed of the latest developments so that Singaporeans can take the necessary precautions against scams.
A multi-prong approach to online scams
Both Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) used their cuts to shine the spotlight on online scams.
Lauding the upcoming change in legislation that will target money mules (for instance, those who willingly give up their bank accounts or Singpass details for money laundering), Mr de Souza asked:
“How is MHA aiming to reduce the prevalence of money mule accounts and lower the incidence of people selling their personal details and bank accounts?”
Calling for a “collective multi-pronged approach” to fight scams, Mr de Souza also asked:
“How is the Government working in tandem with the various sectors in order to develop specific and targeted approaches to dealing with different sorts of scams, particularly because scams evolve quickly?
What infrastructure is in place to respond to new forms of scams across the various industries, such that all stakeholders are informed and play their part in collectively combating the threat?”
Mr Nair drew attention to the vast amounts of money that was lost to online scams in the past two years, and asked if existing measures to combat cybercrime are adequate:
“In particular, I wonder whether the Police believe any further steps need to be taken in educating the public better, as well as steps that are required to catch and prosecute the perpetrators.
Where these perpetrators are abroad, which I believe happens in many of the scams, have we had any success in capturing the perpetrators and/or recovering assets for victims?”
Enforcing greater accountability from online stakeholders
Mr Derrick Goh (Nee Soon GRC) called on MHA to increase collaboration with foreign law-enforcement agencies and enforce greater accountability on stakeholders like social media and e-commerce firms:
“These stakeholders who themselves benefit and profit from the digital ecosystem need to do more, and have accountability clearly assigned to drive more proactive, upstream prevention of scams.”
Reflecting our Party values
The issue of scams is a complex one and hence an effective solution has to be a multi-faceted one which, at the same time, reflects our Party values.
Legislation and accountability keep Singapore safe from threats, not just in the physical space, but also, in the digital arena which we are increasingly inhabiting. Ensuring that perpetrators are caught and the appropriate recourse is available to victims upholds justice in our society.
Public education builds resilience in our people, so that collectively, we can better equipped and avoid falling prey to scams.