Common Scams (and how to avoid them)

As much as the digital world evolves to afford us endless possibilities, it also leaves us vulnerable to the bad eggs, who continue to peek through the cracks and sometimes, right into our bank accounts. Here are some common scams which should ring all your alarms, and how to avoid them.

 

Catfished for Credit

In the age of Tinder and online dating, we often receive messages from interested parties on social media or dating apps, with intentions of getting to know us better. They will be beautiful and charming, invested in getting to know us in every way – sometimes they’re even celebrities1 fawning over you for a change – except none of it is real.

 

They’ll tell you a sob story about needing money urgently, tugging at both your heart and purse strings until you send them the money, only for them to disappear, or in some cases, ask for more money.

 

 

Tip:

  • Don’t respond to messages from people you don’t know personally – stranger danger is still a tried and tested formula!
  • Do a search on their photos or messages, as chances are they’ll be photos of someone else or lifted from a script.
  • Lastly, never share your personal details or finances with anyone!

 

IT Support

False software upgrades and frozen screens will lead you into calling the provided hotline, where someone will claim to help you in the issue, but with a caveat – they need your credit card details or they require you to transfer a small deposit as proof of your transaction.

 

Once they manage to extort money from you, they will disappear, and your laptop remains corrupted.

 

 

Tip:

  • Never reach out to the hotline numbers provided in these messages – your first course of action is to reach out only to official hotlines.
  • Never divulge your credit card details or transfer any amount of money over the phone – if need be, make a police report, and contact a tech support contractor authorized by the manufacturer of your device.

 

Bank Phishing

Scammers will impersonate official messages to customers, with emails or numbers which are close to the real thing, tricking consumers into panic by informing them of suspended accounts or unpaid bills which require their immediate attention.

 

Victims – in their panic – will call these numbers, often pressured into supplying sensitive details such as passwords, card information, and even pay fees which don’t exist, allowing an opportunity to wipe their accounts clean. In 2021, OCBC Bank reported up to $13.5 million lost to said scams, of which $8.5 million2 alone was lost in December.

 

 

Tip:

  • Never respond to the number or email address provided or click the links – call up your bank hotline immediately to verify the information and report the scam attempt to them or the police.
  • Never divulge your card details or passwords to anyone and always check the official contacts provided by your bank.

 

Luxury Listings

With online shops popping up everywhere, e-commerce scams often happen in the form of luxury goods such as expensive branded bags or extravagant watches being sold for dirt-cheap prices online, claiming them to be warehouse products or ‘slightly damaged’.

 

These items are listed for extremely low prices, and once the transfer of a deposit has been made, the seller will disappear along with your money.

 

 

Tip:

  • Never make purchases from unofficial platforms or websites which release payment to the seller without proof of a received item.
  • Always shop from authorized resellers, or better yet, don’t trust anything that’s too good to be true.

 

While the methods are unscrupulous and we always believe we know better, always be on high alert for anything suspicious, and on your guard against anyone who asks for personal information (and we’re not talking about your nosy auntie at family occasions) – after all, it never hurts to be cautious.

 

Sources:

1The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings. "Radio DJ Simon Lim’s public Instagram photos stolen by love scammer,” 22 October 2020.

2Channel NewsAsia © Mediacorp. "OCBC says S$13.7 million lost in phishing scams, up from S$8.5 million,” 30 Jan 2022.

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