We’ve heard it all, investment scams, romantic scams, lottery scams, inheritance scams and given the Covid-19 outbreak where lockdowns prevailed and physical social interactions have been replaced by video conferencing, many unscrupulous parties jumped at the opportunity to be more creative with scams. This time, we see scammers impersonating police officers, even officials from Singapore High Court or Interpol. Robocalls and caller ID spoofing calls are now on the rise where the actual phone number is masked to display a different number. Scammers will call from a number appearing to be legitimate and have their ‘backstories’ ready which typically comprises compromised accounts/information or pending refunds to illicit fear and prompt victims into following the instructions of the scammer in order to remedy the situation.
Here are some tips to avoid being scammed:
- Know your basics
Government agencies or legitimate organisations will never ask for personal details or money over undocumented platforms, or ask you to hand over cash to ‘officials’. The same applies for financial institutions and authority bodies. Knowing this vital fact is your first frontline defense against scammers. Scammers will put a lot of effort to appear legitimate but upon close inspection, you are prone to find something peculiar that does not fit the narrative.
- Never disclose personal information
Personal information doesn’t just include your bank information, personal address, financial information, insurance details, passwords, verification codes but also includes your vacation photos, your daily whereabouts, your employment history and so forth. When filling in online forms, double check that you are on a secured page and only provide the required details. Always be vigilant to minimise the amount of your personal information that you provide
- Verify their ‘story’
Some scams are performed elaborately with every detail taken care of. If you receive calls from any government officials, verify their credentials and credibility through the proper channels. If you are abroad, call into the embassy for confirmation. Proper verification will often expose the ‘loopholes’ and when things don’t add up, it is time to hang up and block the number.
- Beware of money requests
Most scammers will first tell a story to build up to the request – this is a clear cut tactic to create some anxiety and fear before asking for money to remedy the situation. Consult a trusted friend or advisor to help you assess the situation accordingly. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
- Note the urgency of the tone
The more urgent the demands, the more obvious of a red flag it is. Ignore any ludicrous requests and instructions and simply hang up. There is no reason why any stranger can just call you up and pressure you into acting instantaneously to their demands. It is also common for some scammers to break their character and start threatening you once they discover that you are trying to waste their time rather than being the perfect prey for their scam. Once a scammer breaks character, it is a clear sign that you should not engage further and immediately sever yourself from the situation.
The old adage of ‘knowing is half the battle’ is truly mission critical – equipping ourselves with the necessary knowledge will prevent us from getting scammed, and prevent the devastating consequences of being scammed.