SINGAPORE: During Parliament sitting on Wednesday (22 Nov), Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Home Affairs disclosed that local Telcos had blocked approximately 180 million suspected scam calls in the initial six months of 2023.
Additionally, the police identified over 3,700 mobile lines, suspected to be utilized by scammers, and notified Telcos for termination within the same timeframe.
Ms Sun highlighted these measures as complementary to the ScamShield mobile app, a mobile application aimed at preventing scams since its launch, which has garnered 750,000 downloads across iOS and Android devices as of October.
Ms Sun said the significant surge in downloads since August 2022, stating that back then, the app had garnered 300,400 users of iOS devices, as reported by the police.
Ms Sun provided this information in response to a Parliamentary Question raised by Yip Hon Weng, the PAP MP for Yio Chu Kang SMC, and Derrick Goh, MP for Nee Soon GRC.
Both Mr Yip and Mr Goh inquired about the effectiveness and adoption rate of ScamShield.
Specifically, they sought information on the percentage of the local population that has downloaded the app, its effectiveness in preventing scams, and whether the Ministry intends to extend its usage to identify and block scammers across various social media, e-commerce platforms, and messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
Mr Goh also asked about the public adoption rate, the Ministry’s assessment of ScamShield’s effectiveness, and its compatibility with malware detection apps used in banking.
ScamShield blacklisting 80,000 scam numbers and flagging 5 million suspicious SMS since March 2022
The ScamShield app, launched in late 2022, aids individuals in filtering out scam messages and calls originating from numbers associated with illicit activities.
Numbers identified by the app as linked to scams are automatically blocked.
Ms Sun, who also serves as the Minister of State for Social and Family Development, emphasized the app’s effectiveness in safeguarding users.
Since March 2022, it has blacklisted and blocked 80,000 unique phone numbers associated with scams and flagged approximately five million SMS messages as potential scams to users.
Suggestion to pre-install ScamShield on all new mobile devices
Mr Yip also inquired whether the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would collaborate with the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) to pre-install ScamShield on all new mobile devices, aiming to promote its usage.
In response, Ms Sun acknowledged that the government did consider it before, but has decided not to proceed.
She outlined three reasons why the government wouldn’t mandate the pre-installation of the ScamShield app on new mobile phones.
Firstly, not all users might consent to having the app pre-installed.
Secondly, for the app to function optimally, users need to configure permission settings.
Ms Sun remarked, “Even if we were to pre-load the app, if the user does not know how to execute the permission settings, ScamShield will not be able to work effectively.”
Thirdly, there’s a possibility that mobile phone users may deactivate or remove the app post-installation.
However, Ms Sun added that the government would keep this option open if endeavours to encourage ScamShield app downloads do not yield significant progress.
Separately, in response to a supplementary question posed by Mr Goh, Ms Sun mentioned that GovTech is actively enhancing the ScamShield app.
The improvements aim to facilitate easier reporting of scams by users.
She further emphasized that GovTech is focused on refining scam SMS detection accuracy and simplifying permission settings for users.
Additionally, Ms Sun highlighted the efforts of the Cyber Security Agency and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in promoting better cyber hygiene practices among the public.
This includes advocating for the downloading of apps exclusively from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store to protect against malware scams.
Scam-related losses in Singapore hit S$2 billion over 3-year period
Between January 2020 and June 2023, victims in Singapore suffered approximately S$2 billion in losses due to scams.
Globally, scammers were estimated to have stolen around US$1.02 trillion from August 2022 to August 2023, as reported by a study conducted by the Global Anti-Scam Alliance and ScamAdviser, a data service provider.
On 25 October, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and IMDA proposed the Shared Responsibility Framework to address losses resulting from scams and allocate responsibility among financial institutions, telcos, and consumers.
Separately, The Central Provident Fund (CPF) announced on Monday a default online withdrawal limit of S$2,000 (approximately US$1,490) per day will be enforced for all CPF members aged 55 and above in Singapore.
This measure aims to enhance the protection of Central Provident Fund (CPF) members against potential scams.
CPF members have the flexibility to adjust this daily limit between S$0 and S$200,000 by accessing their accounts online.
However, any increase in the withdrawal limit requires Singpass face verification (SFV) and includes a mandatory 12-hour cooling period to prevent unauthorized modifications, as specified by the CPF Board.
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