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Singapore’s Anti-Scam Centre to mitigate fintech crimes

Image credit: www.police.gov.sg

Fintech – a portmanteau of financial technology – is an industry that has seen extraordinary growth in recent years, and Singapore is positioning itself to take full advantage of this emerging new market.

As the term suggests, financial technology utilises technology, such as the internet or apps, to provide financial service. According to a recent study, investment in Asia-Pacific fintech more than quadrupled in 2015 to US$4.3 billion, making it the second-biggest region for fintech investment after North America. Singapore has instigated a range of measures designed to boost its fintech industry, many of which are aimed at encouraging new business ventures.

However, recently, the total number of online crime cases reported for the top four types (e-commerce scams, loan scams, credit-for-sex scams, and internet love scams) increased by almost 60%. To augment its scam-fighting efforts, the Singapore Police Force set up the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC), a dedicated unit within the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to tackle scam-related crimes.

With its streamlined investigation and prosecution processes, the Police are now able to intervene at a much faster pace. By collaborating with the three major local banks, suspicious bank accounts that are linked to scams can be frozen within a few days as compared to the previous two weeks to two months waiting period before the setting up of the ASC. In addition to the collaboration with banks to disrupt the scammers’ operations, telecommunications companies will also be engaged to swiftly terminate phone lines used by scammers, further crippling their operations.

In the first three months of the ASC’s operation, 1,286 bank accounts that were linked to scams were frozen, with about S$1.25 million of S$3.84 million scammed recovered from such cases.

The Assistant Director of the Specialised Commercial Crime Division, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) said that the Police would like to thank these banks for their partnership and commitment to swiftly freeze scam-related bank accounts to mitigate victims’ losses; and provide bank account holders’ particulars and statements promptly to allow the Police to carry out investigations against these money mules and suspected scammers.

To further its anti-scam outreach efforts, the ASC continue to engage and work closely with online marketplaces to introduce anti-scam measures. E-commerce scams have seen a significant increase in the number of victims falling prey to bogus transactions as well. Online marketplaces worked closely with the Police and introduced their anti-scam measures such as publishing scam advisories on their platform, via a form of escrow payment that will only release the money to the seller when the buyer acknowledges through the platform, that the item has been received in good order.

Additionally, one online marketplace introduced a ‘My Info’ page developed by the Government Technology Agency which allows its users to verify the identity of another account user, thus preventing scammers from creating multiple fake accounts.

With the strong support and commitment from these strategic partners, the ASC will continue to strategise and leverage technology to implement more measures and work towards realising the CAD’s vision of making Singapore the safest and most trusted place for business and finance.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to make the city-state the world’s first ‘smart nation’ by 2030, using technology to improve the economy and enhance the standard of living. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, Singapore’s central bank and financial regulator, is also helping create a ‘smart financial centre’ where technology is used to increase efficiency and create opportunities.

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