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Singapore’s Cybersecurity Enhanced by Mobile App

Image credit: www.police.gov.sg

A total of 722,865 small-medium scale enterprises (SMSE) have been reported and more than 5,537 phone numbers believed to be used in scams have been blocked on the ScamShield app since its launch, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

Loan-related scams, as well as sports and betting scams, where scammers use SMSEs to promote illegal gambling and online casino betting, are among the most common scam types reported on the app, said the senior investigating officer at the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC). The ASC added that loan scams are the most common message scams reported on the app. They make up 30 to 40% of the total message scams filtered by the app.

Early last month, the ASC detected a phishing scam disguised as a job listing, where potential victims were prompted to click on URL links leading to phishing websites. ASC immediately blocked these phishing websites, said SPF and NCPC.

In late April this year, the centre also detected a recurring trend where potential victims received spoof SMSEs masquerading as banks, claiming that victims’ bank cards had been suspended and provided contact numbers to call for assistance.

In response, ASC reached out to telecommunication companies to suspend the contact numbers involved. Of the total reported SMSEs and phone numbers, about 10 to 15% are non-scam related reports. Users can submit any message (or call) they deem to be a scam. The agency received submissions where messages are not entirely scam related, such as advertisements for tuition, advertisements for condo units, and private apartments. The agency makes sure that they do not block all numbers that are being submitted right on the spot. They vow to do a lot of background screening before deciding whether to block the number.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the app uses artificial intelligence to identify keywords in messages from unknown contacts, these messages will be moved into a junk folder created on the user’s phone by the app, similar to email structure.

ScamShield has been jointly developed with the National Crime Prevention Council and Government Technology Agency, is available only on iOS devices and can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store for free.

The app blocks a call from a database of blocked numbers, managed centrally by the NCPC and SPF. Users can report scam-appearing messages and calls through the app, which will be added to the database and shared with the police. The council added that ScamShield does not have access to the user’s contact list, location or personal data. The app does not require users to register with their mobile numbers either. Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Home Affairs said that the number of scam cases has been on the rise and asked people to be vigilant when giving personal information to anyone.

ScamShield is easy to deploy in 3 simple steps and has many security features.

Download from App Store

  • Search for Scamshield on the App Store or click on this link. Do not download applications that are not from the official Apple Store.
  • Block known scam callers
  • ScamShield compares an incoming call against a list maintained by the Singapore Police Force to determine if the number has been used for illegal purposes and blocks it.

Open Settings

  • Tap Phone
  • Tap Call Blocking & Identification
  • Enable Scamshield
  • Filter Scam SMSes

On receipt of an SMS from an unknown contact, ScamShield will determine if the SMS is a scam using an on-device algorithm and filter the messages to a junk SMS folder. Scam SMSes will be sent to NCPC and SPF for collation. This keeps the app updated and will help protect others from such scam calls and messages. To Enable auto spam SMS filter:

Open Settings

  • Tap Messages
  • Tap Unknown & Spam
  • Enable Scamshield

Report Scam Messages

People can also report scam messages from other chat apps such as WhatsApp, Wechat, IMO, Viber, etc. They can forward the messages via ScamShield’s in-app reporting function. The Council have said that the app will be available soon for Android users once some issues have been resolved.

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