SINGAPORE: Mobile and desktop messaging application Telegram Messenger has not responded to police’s requests to remove posts associated with suspected scams.
Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said this in a written response to a parliamentary question from Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) on Monday (6 Nov).
Mr Shanmugam revealed the police have been working with social media and e-commerce platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to take action against online scams.
He stated that since 2021, more than 5,900 online monikers and advertisements involved in suspected scams have been flagged out by police for termination.
In response to inquiries about the average turnaround time for such removals, Mr Shanmugam explained that the duration for removal varies based on the platforms’ responsiveness.
“For example, Shopee would usually take about one to two days to respond, while Carousell and Facebook would take longer, sometimes up to five days or even longer.
On the end of the spectrum, Telegram has not responded to Police’s requests.” he said.
He also emphasized the critical need for swift removal of scam accounts and posts when flagged, citing the potential harm they can inflict.
“We have been engaging the internet companies to improve their turnaround time, so that we can reduce the number of people who may fall prey to the scammers.”
Mr Giam also asked when will the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) be operationalised, to which Mr Shanmugam responded with “OCHA was passed in Parliament in July 2023. When OCHA is operationalised progressively from the first quarter of 2024, Police will be able to direct online services to prevent suspected scam accounts or content from interacting with or reaching Singapore users.
Mr Giam also inquired about the timeline for the activation of the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA), to which Mr Shanmugam replied, “OCHA was passed in Parliament in July 2023”.
“When OCHA is operationalised progressively from the first quarter of 2024, police will be able to direct online services to prevent suspected scam accounts or content from interacting with or reaching Singapore users.”
He also made it clear that failure to comply with these directives would constitute a legal offence.
“While the OCHA is not yet operationalised, social media services designated under the Broadcasting Act are already required to put in place systems and processes to minimise exposure to harmful content for users in Singapore, including scams,” he added.
In his written response, he concluded by saying that users in Singapore have the option to report such content to social media services for removal in accordance with their community guidelines and standards and that these requirements are spelt out in the Code of Practice for Online Safety under the Broadcasting Act.
Singapore tops global losses as scammers amass US$1.02 trillion
Between August 2022 and August 2023, scammers globally accumulated an estimated US$1.02 trillion, with victims in Singapore experiencing the highest average losses, as revealed in a study by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance (Gasa) and ScamAdviser.
This figure far surpassed the losses of US$55.3 billion in 2021 and US$47.8 billion in 2020.
This information was revealed by Gasa’s managing director, Jorij Abraham, during the opening speech on 18 October at the fourth annual Global Anti-Scam Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, which spans two days.
To acquire these insights, the study conducted a survey of 49,459 individuals across 43 countries, including Singapore, and extrapolated the data to account for each country’s population.
Mr Abraham clarified that the heightened losses were a result of the constraints related to calculating losses using data from law enforcement agencies, which traditionally cover only approximately 7% of all scams.
Gasa, an organization fostering collaboration between policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and cybersecurity entities, partnered with ScamAdviser, a service specializing in identifying scam websites.
The study highlighted that the average scam victim in Singapore lost US$4,031, the highest globally, followed by Switzerland at US$3,767 and Austria at US$3,484, pointing to the appeal of these affluent nations as targets for scammers.
Data from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for February showed a rise in losses, with Singaporean victims losing S$660.7 million in 2022, up from S$632 million in 2021.
These trends were also observed in Singapore, where phishing scams were the most prevalent in 2022, accounting for 7,097 cases and causing a loss of $16.5 million, as reported by SPF.