In 2022, Gallup’s Global Law and Order Index ranked Singapore as the safest country in the world, with low crime rates and public confidence in its police force showcasing the nation’s commitment to security and effective law enforcement. Walking around Singapore’s immaculate streets and parks, anyone would conclude as much.
That said, the city-state is not immune to crime happening in cyberspace. In fact, scams and cybercrime are on the rise in the country. According to data from the Singapore Police Force, the number of scams and cybercrime cases rose by 69.4 per cent—from 14,481 in 2022 to 24,525 in 2023 during the same period of January to June. Some of the more common scams in the Lion City are job scams (25.7 per cent), e-commerce scams (20.2 per cent), fake friend call scams (17.3 per cent), phishing scams (13.4 per cent), and investment scams (7.2 per cent).
Falling for a scam takes a mental, physical, and emotional toll on a victim. That’s why it’s important to know what steps to take to recover and safeguard oneself from future scams. Here’s a guide on what to do if you find yourself in this situation:
Stay Calm and Focused
There are so many stories of scam victims that grabbed headline news and went viral online. There are now also numerous resources on how to prevent phishing or becoming a victim to social engineering attacks. However, despite warnings from authorities, many people are still lured in by scammers, falling under the spell of potential financial rewards.
If you find yourself caught in a scammer’s trap, the first thing you should do is remain calm and focused. It’s natural to feel upset or panicked, but allowing emotions to take control of you can hinder effective decision-making. So, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and focus on the tasks at hand.
Cease Communication Immediately
If the scam involves ongoing communication with the perpetrator, stop all contact immediately to prevent further manipulation or threats. One example of such a scam is the so-called Internet Love Scam, where the victim is lured into having a fake online relationship with an attractive person. Once scammers gain the victim’s trust, they offer them an investment opportunity, such as trading in fake cryptocurrencies. This often results in the victim investing large amounts of money that they will never see again.
Scam Alert reports that a total of SGD 37.5 million have been lost to this scam from 868 victims as of December 2022. It’s one of the types of scams that cause not just financial losses but also deep emotional trauma to the victim. To prevent further financial damage and emotional distress, you would need to cut off all channels of communication with the criminal actor, whether it’s through phone calls, emails, or social media. Scammers skilled in psychological manipulation shouldn’t be underestimated.
Identify and Isolate Compromised Devices
Next, identify and isolate any devices that may have been compromised during the scam. This could include your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Disconnect them from the internet by turning on the aeroplane mode or turning off your Wi-Fi. This would immediately stop the scammer from further gaining unauthorised access through malicious apps and malware.
Another important step is to secure online accounts. You can use a different computer that’s protected with anti-virus and anti-malware software to access your online accounts, but change your password and phone number if your phone has been compromised as well.
Contact Your Bank to Secure Your Accounts
Immediately reach out to your bank or financial institution to report the scam and secure your accounts. If needed, ask them to freeze your credit card to prevent unauthorised use.
Then, change your passwords and pins. In addition, monitor your account for suspicious activity and follow any additional security measures recommended by your bank to safeguard your finances.
File a Report with Singapore Police
It’s essential to file a report with the Singapore Police Force to document the scam and assist with investigations. You can do this online through their website or by visiting a police station in person. During the investigation, provide as much detail as possible, including any evidence you’ve gathered.
Collect Evidence from Your Devices
Before you reset your device or delete suspicious apps, document information such as IP addresses, phone numbers, URL links, email messages, and other information that they can use to build a case against the scammers.
Ask the police if they need any more relevant information. It’s important to preserve evidence carefully as it may be crucial for investigations or legal proceedings.
Inform Contacts about Any Hacked Social Media Account
If your social media account was compromised during the scam, inform your contacts immediately. This will help prevent further spread of misinformation or scams using your identity.
Also contact the social media’s help centre to assist in securing your account and regaining control over it.
Install Anti-Virus Software on Your Devices
Protect your devices from malware and phishing attempts by installing a reputable anti-virus software. Moreover, regularly update the software and run scans to detect and remove any threats. This extra layer of security can help prevent future scams.
Admitting you’ve got scammed takes courage and humility. While it sometimes results in huge financial losses, not all is lost. Taking prompt and decisive action can help mitigate your mistake and facilitate your recovery process.
As a victim, it’s also important to ask for help from family and friends. During this traumatic time in your life, having their support is essential for your mental and emotional healing.