Online scams emerge involving fake cash giveaways linked to Covid-19 payouts

Police have observed more scams using social media platforms such as Facebook to advertise fake cash give-aways.
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - Beware of scams on social media that purport to give away cash, especially if they are linked to coronavirus government payouts, the police warned on Wednesday (April 8).

In a statement, the police said that they have observed more scams in which scammers use social media platforms such as Facebook to advertise fake cash give-aways.

Victims are instructed to share their Internet banking details and one-time passwords so they can presumably get the money credited in their bank accounts.

The scammers then use the information to make unauthorised and fraudulent transactions from the victims' bank accounts without their consent.

The police said that at least 13 of such reports have been made since December last year, and some of the fake social media advertisements have now evolved to include references to government payouts related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In one example of a scam highlighted by the police, the scammer tried to persuade a potential victim that he would get $500 for spending just 5 minutes to reveal his user ID, PIN and account number to the scammer.

The fake cash give-away scams linked to the coronavirus come at a time when the Government has announced moves to help people and businesses during the pandemic.

For instance, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday said all Singaporeans aged 21 and above will now receive a one-off payout of $600, in a bid to help households cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

There have also been a number of scams relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks.

In February, four men and a woman were arrested for allegedly cheating customers over face masks sold on online marketplace Carousell.

The Health Ministry has also warned of scammers using automated voice calls, or impersonating its staff members and contact tracing personnel, to ask for personal information including financial details.

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And earlier in April, the police warned of an increase in online scams involving Nintendo Switch consoles.

The police advised members of the public to take the following precautions when they receive unsolicited messages and information, especially from unknown parties:

  • Beware of unusual requests or offers from strangers and even known social media contacts as they may be spoofed.
  • Always verify the authenticity of such messages by checking with friends offline, or via official government sources. Members of the public can sign up to receive official updates through the Gov.sg WhatsApp platform at go.gov.sg/whatsapp. Alternatively, check with a trusted friend or relative before acting as being possibly overwhelmed by emotion could result in erring in judgements.
  • Never give out personal or bank account details, and one-time passwords to anyone, including family and friends.

The police added that members of the public who wish to provide any information related to such scams may call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness

Those who require urgent police assistance may call 999.

To seek scam-related advice, call the anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.