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HometechWhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram emerge as platforms of choice for scammers

WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram emerge as platforms of choice for scammers

SINGAPORE – Meta apps WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have become the platforms of choice for scammers to lure victims.

These apps were used by scammers in 9,556 of the 22,339 – about 43 per cent – scam cases reported between January and June, according to the mid-year scam and cybercrime statistics released by the police on Wednesday.

Scammers stole more than $334 million in the first half of 2023 and more people were victimised.

Job, e-commerce and phishing scams, as well as fake friend calls, remain the most common scams, accounting for at least three-quarters of the cases reported, the police added.

Instagram and Facebook were used in 91.7 per cent of all scam attempts perpetrated on social media, dwarfing the number of scams on TikTok and Twitter.

WhatsApp was the messaging channel used in just over 70 per cent of 6,573 scam cases on messaging platforms, followed by Telegram, which hosted 24.1 per cent of the scams.

Six in 10 of these cases involved job scams, while the others were phishing and investment scams and other ploys.

Facebook accounted for 68.4 per cent of scams in which a social media platform was used to contact victims.

Nearly half of these scams on Facebook were e-commerce scams, which typically ensnare victims through advertisements or impersonation.

Instagram was used in almost a quarter of all scam cases on social media.

Social media, messaging and online shopping platforms were used in roughly two-thirds of all scams between January and June.

The majority of scams on online shopping platforms – 82.2 per cent of them – were hosted on Carousell, which is among the most commonly used platforms in e-commerce scams involving fake rental units and electronic goods, among others, said the police.

Facebook Marketplace accounted for 14 per cent of reported scams on online shopping platforms.

The police said scammers would act as buyers and claim to be keen on items listed by the victims.

They would agree on a price and send the victim a phishing link or QR code prompting them to key in their banking credentials.

Replying to queries from The Straits Times, Meta said scams were a longstanding issue that could happen on any platform.

The company said it tackles scams on its platforms through manual reviews and automated technology such as machine learning, adding that it would work with the authorities to crack down on scams.

The statistics underline Meta’s poor track record of safeguarding its platforms from scams.

Facebook Marketplace was ranked last among six major e-commerce platforms for the second consecutive year in the annual e-commerce marketplace transaction safety ratings.

Launched in 2022, the rating system assesses the safety of each platform based on user authenticity, transaction safety, availability of remedial channels for consumers and effectiveness of anti-scam measures.

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Facebook Marketplace, which allows users to list items for sale, ranks lowest, after Carousell and Shopee, according to ratings published by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Amazon, Lazada and Qoo10 sit at the top.

The police said: “Facebook Marketplace continued to be rated the lowest as the platform has not implemented the recommended safeguards, such as user verification measures, and has had a significant number of e-commerce scams reported against it.

“We encourage consumers to transact only with marketplaces with better ratings to safeguard themselves against e-commerce scams.”

The rating system is among anti-scam measures introduced by the authorities following one of Singapore’s worst spates of phishing attacks in early 2022, when 790 people lost $13.7 million to phishing scams.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has since required local banks to lower default transfer limits to reduce the risk of fraudulent transfers, as well as make available a “kill switch” for users to freeze their account if they suspect they are being scammed.

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OCBC Bank in August introduced a security feature that blocks access to its online banking app if it detects the presence of a suspicious app downloaded from an unofficial source outside the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

This was in response to malware scams, which give fraudsters total control over a victim’s device, that have become more prevalent in 2023.

SMS scam cases fell by 70 per cent in the three months following the launch of the SMS Sender ID Registry in January.

The registry alerts users to possible scam messages with a “likely scam” message if the sender is not registered with the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

More than 3,600 merchants, which make up 96 per cent of all SMS senders with alphanumeric sender IDs, have registered with the scheme, up from 198 merchants in October last year, said the police.

It added that the scheme will continue as it is useful in alerting the public to scams.

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