People of Singapore should beware of the rising cases of scams involving spoofed business email addresses as victims are being deceived into transferring money to foreign bank accounts for business payments.
Releasing a press statement, Singapore Police said, “Since January 2017, police have received more than 110 reports of business email impersonation scams, an increase of about 20 per cent from the same period last year. The total amount lost through this type of scam in 2017 to date has exceeded SGD13 million, as compared to about SGD15 million for the same period in 2016.”
The victims were deceived into transferring money to foreign bank accounts for business payments. They believed that they were paying their regular business partners, only to discover later that the request for payments were not made by their business partners, and the accounts did not belong to them.
These cases usually involve businesses with overseas dealings, and which use email as their main mode of communication, police said.
About the modus operandi of these scammers, the police said, “In many of the cases, the scammers are believed to have hacked into either the email accounts of the victims or their suppliers, to familiarise themselves with their emails. They would then use the supplier’s email account or create a spoof account, closely resembling that of the suppliers’, and ask victims to transfer payments to a new bank account.
Scammers also use the same business logos, links to the company's website, or messaging format to deceive victims into thinking that the emails were genuine, police said.
Singapore Police have also issued an advisory to the people to prevent such cases.
1) Prevent your email account from being hacked by using strong passwords, changing them regularly, and enabling two-factor authentication. Install anti-virus, anti-spyware/malware, and firewall on your computer, and keep them updated. Also use the latest computer operating system (OS) and keep them updated when new patches are available.
2) Be mindful of any sudden changes in the payment instructions and bank accounts provided by your business partners or creditors. Call back to verify changes in payment instructions and bank accounts. Previously known phone numbers should be used instead of the numbers provided in the fraudulent email.
3) Educate your employees on this scam, especially those that are responsible for making fund transfers.
The police also added that anyone who wants to provide any information related to such crimes can call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. Those who need urgent police assistance can call 999.
Members of the public can also call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg.