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Sylvia Lim highlights public’s crisis of confidence towards digital space amidst evolving scams

Workers’ Party Chair Sylvia Lim highlighted the crisis of confidence of public towards digital space, as traditionally secure savings avenues, such as CPF funds and fixed deposits, are now susceptible to scams and malware.

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SINGAPORE: During a Parliamentary motion debate on Wednesday (10 Jan), Sylvia Lim, the Workers’ Party (WP) chairman, highlighted the crisis of confidence among the public regarding the digital sphere.

She pointed out that even previously trusted savings avenues, like CPF funds and fixed deposits, are now vulnerable to scams and malware, contributing to this crisis of trust.

While acknowledging the importance of a ‘whole of nation’ approach to foster trust in the digital sphere by creating an inclusive and secure digital society, she emphasized the necessity for government and businesses to spearhead this initiative.

Ms Lim underscored the pressing need for robust measures to rebuild trust in the digital domain, specifically targeting the combat against evolving scams and the regulation of AI advancements.

Participating in the motion debate initiated by four PAP MPs on the establishment of a secure digital society, Ms Lim highlighted the vulnerability of seemingly secure savings channels, such as CPF monies and fixed deposits, to evolving scam tactics and malware.

This is leading to a change in thinking about digital transactions, she said.

Although three banks have introduced “money lock” options to safeguard customer funds against cyber threats, Ms Lim noted that this move reflects an acknowledgement of the digital sphere’s inherent vulnerabilities.

“I would not like to exaggerate the situation, but I would say that we are moving towards a crisis of confidence in digital banking, without stronger intervention by government regulators.”

While customers need to do their part, she highlighted that should be ever mindful not to expect too much from the public.

Ms Lim referenced a letter in the ST Forum on 22 September, highlighting the challenges people face in maintaining constant vigilance against scams due to factors such as multitasking, stress, fatigue, or medication affecting their alertness.

According to the IMDA’s Digital Society Report last November,78% of seniors over 60 used e-payments for online transactions, but only 44% of the same group were moderately confident about identifying scams.

99% were worried about becoming a victim of scams. These numbers show that the threat of scams is very real and that more needs to be done, the MP for Aljunied GRC added.

Ms Lim also discussed the alarming statistics provided by IMDA regarding phone call scams in Singapore, revealing that approximately 300 million suspected scam calls out of 1.6 billion international calls were blocked by telcos in the first nine months of 2023.

Expressing concern, she noted that despite this considerable number being blocked, numerous other scam calls likely bypassed security measures, potentially putting ordinary Singaporeans, including their parents, at risk of falling victim to scams.

While acknowledging banks’ increased efforts to prevent and halt scams, Ms Lim highlighted the evolving tactics of scammers, particularly their adeptness in manipulating victims’ psychology.

Ms Lim’s near encounter with PayLah phishing scam

She shared her near encounter with a PayLah phishing scam, recounting receiving a deceptive SMS on New Year’s Day about an unauthorized S$289 withdrawal from her PayLah account.

“As I was in the midst of some work then, I did not scrutinise the message carefully and clicked on the link to stop the transaction.”

“The link then brought me to a page to enter banking credentials, whereupon I had my Eureka moment and stopped in my tracks.”

Ms. Lim pointed out the unfortunate reality that some residents, receiving similar SMS messages, fell prey to the scam and arrived at a Meet People Session in a state of desperation.

Ms Lim reiterated the importance of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in regulating banks, especially in terms of prevention and loss sharing in the context of scams.

MAS’s role in addressing unequal bargaining power between banks and consumers

She previously raised this concern in the House and submitted a proposal to MAS regarding the Risk Sharing Framework for scam losses.

Ms Lim highlighted the unequal bargaining power between banks and consumers, reminding the MAS of its pivotal role as the bank regulator to ensure that banks behave responsibly and ethically.

“Over the last few months, I have received sceptical feedback from some members of the public, that the banks’ interests will always be protected at the expense of the consumer; I hope that the MAS will demonstrate that this is not true.”

Discussing the potential of the Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA) in combatting scams, she acknowledged its authority to empower law enforcement to issue proactive orders for internet service providers.

However, she expressed a need for clarity on the timeline for the effectiveness of OCHA’s provisions.

Additionally, she noted the establishment of the Taskforce on Resilience and Security of Digital Infrastructure and Services (RSD Task Force) aimed at overseeing public confidence in digital services.

She the absence of MAS representation considering banking’s significant role in digital infrastructure.

“Since banking is such a big part of digital infrastructure and services, should MAS not be on the Task Force? ”

Potential misuse of AI and Government’s role to regulate it

Ms Lim expressed concerns about the potential misuse of Artificial Intelligence (AI), highlighting its capability to facilitate scams through deepfakes and disseminate disinformation.

Citing CNA, she noted a staggering 500% increase in deepfake videos in Singapore in 2023 compared to the previous year.

“We should be acutely aware of AI’s pitfalls and the need for AI regulation, to ensure that Singaporeans remain safe online.”

Ms Lim strongly opined against major decision-making being outsourced to AI tools, deeming it unacceptable.

Moving forward, the need to harness AI and yet ensure humans are in charge will be the big challenge.

“Technology should be our servants and not our masters. We should take time to reflect on what is happening and not let technology run away unbridled, with us in tow.”

She reminded that having effective regulations for AI will require the government to invest in constant capacity building.

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Good thinking Sylvia! The Government is behind the curve!

After collecting a $million salary, the Government MPs have gone on a stupor. They have outsourced most of their work and don’t know what they are doing except act busy!

2001, went to Smart Nation discussion at Marine Parade CC.
Vivian Bola, heading the discussion.
When my friend told him, the plan The Government got for Zul( Fateha).
Vivi, never even turn to look at us.
Smart Nation not really So Smart.
But Smart enough to do Zul.

Tell her lah, Not To Worry. Aiya
Just Inform, Shanmugam.
He will Pay Everyone, the Lost Money.

Most “kena scammed” per capita on planet earth, … tells you all that you need to know about the status and vulnerability of this smart nation !!! Then again, … given that the populace has been entirely reliant on this regime’s step by step instructions on how best to put on a face mask during covid times, … is another story for another day, about the populace’s inability to do most things for themselves !!! Maybe, … most citizens need to be reschooled and retrained on how to use a hand~phone, consciously and sensibly !!! At the same time and… Read more »

Thank you SL for highlighting this ongoing problem..
..and of course the PAPs will deny everything …throw it back to users.

Govt. is owner and regulator, that in itself is a scam. So unless there is a separation of powers, the scams will only increase. Kudos to SL, as always, in showing the pitfalls of the digital usage and. seeking to protect our monies.

What is the state of National Defence against Scams in the spore?
Bo Bian? 🏳🏳🏳🏳🏳🏳🏳?

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