What is cyber scam? A cyber scam is designed to trick you into giving away your money, personal details or data by offering an attractive deal or false information using digital means.

In today’s digital age, cyber scams have become a prevalent issue that affects millions of people around the world. Scam victims in Singapore lost a whopping $660.7 million in 2022, and it’s not just the elderly who are falling for scams either — more than 53% of scam victims were between 20 and 39 years old. These scams not only cause financial losses but can also lead to reputational damage and emotional distress.

In this article, we will explore the top 10 most common types of cyber scams in Singapore, how they work, as well as the signs you should look out for to prevent them from happening to you.


#1 Phishing Scam

Phishing scams are a common cyber scam in Singapore where scammers trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords, usernames, and credit card numbers. From December 2021 to the time of writing, 2237 victims have fallen prey to scammers using phishing scams with a total of S$19.4 million lost.

Scammers may carry out phishing scams through a variety of methods. These include emails, phone calls or text messages that appear to be from legitimate organisations like banks or government agencies. Typically, the scammer will claim to be from a bank or government agency in order to convince a victim to click on a link to a fake website where they will be prompted to enter sensitive personal information.

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In this scam variant, members of the public would come across advertisements for sale of food items (e.g. otah) via social media messaging platforms like Facebook on their Android mobile devices. Victims would contact the scammers via WhatsApp and the scammers would send a uniform resource locator (URL) to the victims. The scammers would inform the victims to download the application found at the URL in order to purchase the food items, and to make payment. Unauthorised transactions would be made from the victim’s bank accounts or credit cards.

Shortly after making these unauthorised transactions, the scammers would contact the victim and introduce themselves as bank staff who are following up on the fraudulent transactions. The scammer would then recommend the victim to download the ScamShield App using a URL link, fraudulently bearing the ScamShield logo, on the pretext of getting the victim to safeguard himself against scams and to make a report in the ScamShield App. Scammers will trick victims into installing malware-infected applications that are outside the app store. Scammers would insist that the URL link provided is legitimate and would inform victims not to download the ScamShield App from the official Google Play Store.

Do not download any files from third-party or dubious sites to your device. This may lead to phishing malware being installed unknowingly, which allows scammers to take control of your device to steal personal/banking information for unauthorised transactions!

The best way to protect yourself from phishing scams is to always be vigilant and sceptical of unsolicited communication be it emails, phone calls or text messages. Make it a habit to verify the legitimacy of a sender by double-checking the email address or phone number. You should also avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. Finally, enable two-factor authentication on all your accounts whenever possible, so you’re always alerted in the event of unauthorised access.

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#2 Credit-For-Sex Scam

Credit-for-sex scams are one of the most common types of cyber scams in Singapore. In this scam, scammers target individuals seeking intimate encounters by posing as young, attractive women offering massage, escort or sexual services on online messaging platforms or social media. From June 2021 to the time of writing, 329 victims have fallen prey to credit-for-sex scams with a total of S$672k lost.

Once contact has been established, the scammer typically talks the victim into buying them a gift card in exchange for a meet-up, date or sexual favours. The scammers are often very persistent if the victim is hesitant about purchasing the gift card, even going as far as to make threats if the victim wishes to end the transaction. They will also insist the victim purchase and send over the gift card first before anything happens.

Victims of credit-for-sex scams are often afraid to seek help or report the incident due to feelings of fear and shame. To protect yourself, exercise caution when engaging with others, and avoid sharing personal or financial information to strangers online.

Credit-for-sex scam in Singapore

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#3 Internet Love Scam

Internet love scams are a prevalent cyber scam targeting individuals seeking love and companionship. Scammers create fake online identities, establish romantic relationships, and manipulate victims into sending money. Since December 2021 to the time of writing, there have been 1099 victims and S$46.9 million lost to internet love cyber scams.

This type of scam often starts with an online friendship. The scammer will engage the victim in conversation to establish an emotional connection. During the build-up, the scammer will regularly contact the victim and go to great lengths to gain the victim’s interest, even going as far as to profess his/her love for the victim. Additionally, the scammer will also give excuses if the victim requests a video call.

Once an emotional connection is established, the scammer will manipulate victims into sending money for various reasons such as sudden misfortune or family emergencies. Since the victim is emotionally invested, they may not be aware that they are being scammed.

To protect yourself from internet love cyber scams, exercise caution and scepticism when engaging with individuals online. Avoid sharing personal or financial information with strangers you’ve never met in person, especially if they make suspicious financial requests. If you suspect an internet love scam, cease contact and report the incident to the authorities immediately.

Internet love scam in Singapore

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#4 Impersonation Scam

One of the most common cyber scams in Singapore are impersonation scams. In this case, the scammers deceive people by impersonating as representatives of trustworthy institutions such as a government official, bank staff, telco staff, police officer, or even as friends or family members. From December 2021 to the time of writing, 752 victims have fallen prey to impersonation scams and S$106.4 million have been lost to scammers.

While posing as an authority, they trick their victims into disclosing personal information or making financial transactions. The scammers mimic the appearance and communication style of the legitimate entity, making it difficult for the victim to recognise the scam. Some common scenarios include scare tactics such as claiming that the victim has committed an offence or posing as a bank asking for personal details to resolve account issues.

To protect yourself from impersonation scams, be cautious and sceptical of any unsolicited messages or calls you receive. Be wary of calls from numbers with the “+” prefix as it means they are not necessarily from Singapore. If you receive a call or message asking for personal information or money, independently verify the identity of the claim by contacting the organisation via another channel.

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#5 Job Scam

Job scams in Singapore target individuals seeking employment opportunities, typically with the promise of making a quick buck. Scammers often send out unsolicited job offers through messaging apps or social media, promising high pay for minimal effort with no experience required, luring unsuspecting victims into their traps. From December 2021 to the time of writing, 4554 victims have fallen prey to job scams with a total of S$91 million lost.

In job cyber scams, scammers often advertise high-paying jobs with minimal qualifications or experience required. They may request that victims pay upfront fees for training, equipment, or travel expenses, with the promise of reimbursement once employment begins. Alternatively, scammers may pose as employment agencies, requesting personal information such as bank details, identity cards, and passport copies.

To protect yourself, exercise caution when applying for jobs online. No legitimate organisation will ask you to pay upfront before starting a job, and be extremely wary of unsolicited job offers that come through on messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram instead of the official organisation’s email address.

Verify the legitimacy of the job posting and the employer before submitting any personal information or making any payments. Avoid jobs that promise high pay for minimal experience or qualifications, as they may be too good to be true. If you suspect a job scam, report it to the authorities and stop all communication with the scammer immediately.

Job scam in Singapore

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#6 Online Purchase Scam

Singapore is a nation of shoppers, so it comes as no surprise that online purchase cyber scams are incredibly common. From December 2021 to the time of writing, 2707 victims have fallen prey to online purchase scams with S$5.8 million lost.

Victims are often lured in by an unusually good deal for a product or service, such as gadgets, amusement park or concert tickets. They transfer payment to the seller, who promises to deliver the item, but the seller may then demand further payment for delivery charges or other fees, and ultimately the victim never receives the item. In some cases, the seller may ask the victim to pay in cash for items that are different from what they thought they were buying, or are cheap imitations.

The modus operandi of online purchase scammers is to pose as legitimate online sellers on popular marketplaces or create fake websites to deceive unsuspecting victims. They may even advertise their products on social media to establish credibility.

E-commerce scam in Singapore

Another e-commerce scam variant is scammers posting in different Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Telegram groups, Goodhood and Carousell about “blessing” or giving away free items, such as an air purifier, an Android TV, a Samsung phone and badminton rackets. They will ask you to either pay a fee for a courier to deliver to your location or self-collect at the person’s home. If you chose to pay for the delivery fee, after making the payment, you will never receive the free item and the scammer will also get to know your address. If you chose to self-collect the free item at the provided address, the homeowner will inform you that the person in question does not reside there, resulting in a wasted trip to the location. When you try to contact the person again, the person would block you.

To avoid falling victim to online purchase scams, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true and only make purchases from reputable online sellers. Always do your research and check the seller’s reputation before making any payments.

If you do make a purchase, use a credit card rather than a debit card or cash, as credit card companies may offer greater protection against fraud. Finally, always keep a record of your transactions and be vigilant for any suspicious activity on your accounts!

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#7 Investment Scam

Investment cyber scams in Singapore can take many forms, but they all have the same objective of tricking victims into handing over their money. Since December 2021 to the time of writing, 2476 victims have fallen prey to investment scams, with a total of S$190.9 million lost.

One common way investment scammers operate is by sending messages through social networking sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat or Line. The modus operandi of these scammers is to claim to be bank or financial company employees or stockbrokers. Once they’ve introduced themselves, they then ask for personal details and transfer of money to banks in Hong Kong and China, promising high returns in the end. However, victims will end up paying hefty administrative and security fees, as well as taxes, and never receive any profits.

Another variation of investment scams involves phone calls from people claiming to be from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority or Hong Kong Overseas Control Centre. They ask for a deposit before releasing the profits. Furthermore, scammers may ask for investments in unregulated and highly volatile cryptocurrencies, taking advantage of the lack of knowledge and experience of their victims.

investment scam in Singapore

To avoid falling for investment scams, it’s crucial to be cautious and verify the legitimacy of any investment opportunities or messages received. Always do your research, check the credentials of the person or company, and never reveal your personal information or transfer money without doing proper due diligence. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

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#8 Loan Scam

Loan cyber scams in Singapore usually start with unsolicited phone calls, text messages, or advertisements on social media and online platforms. As of December 2021 to the time of writing, 2274 victims have fallen prey to loan scams with a total of S$18.3 million lost.

Scammers may even claim to be employees of licensed moneylenders to gain trust. Once the victim agrees to take the loan, the scammers will ask for an upfront payment before the loan can be disbursed. After receiving the payment, the scammers disappear and are never heard from again. Sometimes, they will ask for personal information such as NRIC, Singpass details, and bank account numbers, which they will then use to harass or threaten the victim for more payment.

It is important to note that licensed moneylenders are prohibited from offering loans through unsolicited messages or calls, so this can be a telltale sign of a loan scam! If you need money, only deal with licensed moneylenders, and verify their authenticity with the Ministry of Law’s website. Licensed moneylenders are required to meet the borrower at the place of business and conduct physical face-to-face ID verification before granting a loan, so any person or institution that can promise online approval is another telltale sign of a scam.

Loan scam in Singapore

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#9 Social Media Takeover Scam

Social media takeovers are one of the common types of cyber scams in Singapore with 1614 victims and a total of S$5.5 million lost as of December 2021 at the time of writing.

In this scam, scammers first gain unauthorised access to an individual’s social media account or messaging app. Once they infiltrate these accounts, scammers assume the victims’ identities and employ various tactics to deceive their friends and contacts.

They may request the purchase of gift cards or ask for personal and banking details, including One-Time Passwords (OTPs) for online accounts such as Lazada, Shopee, or Qoo10 on the pretext of helping them sign up or claim prizes from fake lucky draws. Once they have the victim’s details, the scammers exploit this information to make unauthorised transactions on the compromised accounts.

Protecting yourself from social media takeover scams requires proactive measures such as using unique and strong passwords, as well as enabling two-factor authentication. While setting up multiple defensive layers for your account can be helpful, you should also be cautious when responding to requests for personal or financial information, especially if they come out of the blue from a friend. If you’re unsure, try calling your friend or mutual contacts to verify the request.

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#10 Software Update Scam

Software update scam is a new type of cyber scam and a growing concern in Singapore. Like the other cyber scams covered on this list, scammers use impersonation to trick unsuspecting individuals into installing malicious programs or divulging sensitive information. In the first half of 2022, software update scammers tricked 249 victims with a total of S$13.9 million lost.

Software update cyber scams use fake pop-up notifications or emails that appear at first glance as legitimate software update alerts. Unsuspecting victims are urged to click on the provided links or download attachments to update their software, which leads to the installation of malware or the disclosure of personal and financial data.

These scammers often exploit the trust people have in well-known software brands to create convincing messages that mimic authentic software update prompts. They also employ tactics like claiming that the updates are urgent to increase the chances of the victim taking action by reducing the amount of time to think.

To protect yourself from software update scams, it is important to be cautious and verify the authenticity of any software update notifications you receive. No update is so urgent that it needs to be performed instantaneously. Additionally, you should also follow well-established cybersecurity best practices by avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.

Instead, visit the official website of the software provider to check for genuine updates. Keep your operating system and software applications up to date by enabling automatic updates or manually checking for updates through trusted sources.

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Protect Yourself from Cyber Scams with FirstCom Academy

We hope this article has been useful at educating you about the 10 most common types of cyber scams in Singapore! When we understand how scammers work, it becomes easier to spot them and safeguard ourselves from malicious actors. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics to deceive unsuspecting individuals, but with knowledge and vigilance, you can minimize the risks.

Always follow cybersecurity best practices like staying cautious when encountering suspicious messages, emails, or online offers. Be skeptical of unsolicited requests for personal or financial information and never click on suspicious links or download attachments from unknown sources. Regularly update your software and use strong, unique passwords together with two-factor authentications enhance your online security.

To further protect yourself and your organization from cyber threats, consider enrolling in FirstCom Academy’s cybersecurity course. Our comprehensive program equips you with the knowledge and skills to identify and prevent cyber scams, secure your digital assets, and implement effective cybersecurity policies throughout an organisation. Don’t wait until you become a victim! Take proactive steps to fortify your defenses today.


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