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Record High: Singapore Scams Surge in 2023, Targeting Migrant Workers


Singapore witnessed an unprecedented surge in scams in 2023, as revealed by Home Minister K. Shanmugam. He noted an 18 percent increase in cases of duping, particularly targeting migrants, a significant number of whom hail from India and Sri Lanka.

According to data shared by the police with The Straits Times, a staggering 46,563 cases of scams were reported in Singapore in 2023, resulting in a loss of SGD 651.8 million. This marks the highest number of scam cases since tracking began in 2016.

Among those falling victim to these scams are approximately 500 foreign maids from South Asian countries, primarily India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. These individuals migrate to Singapore in search of better job opportunities, higher wages, and a stable socio-economic environment.

How are individuals duped?

Illustratively, in 2020, a maid from Myanmar was targeted via the messaging application Viber. A person posing as a bank staff member requested her personal details under the guise of “updating” her ATM card. Consequently, around SGD 2,600 was withdrawn from her account, leaving her with a mere SGD 45. Fortunately, she managed to recover SGD 1,700 from the bank, as per a report by a Singaporean newspaper.

Government measures to combat the scam surge

In response to inquiries regarding the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) tracking of such workers and the preventive measures against financial crimes, Minister Shanmugam emphasized their efforts in raising awareness and providing training to workers to guard against scams.

The police had earlier indicated that foreign maids were particularly vulnerable to phishing, Internet love, and loan scams in 2021. As part of the Ministry of Manpower’s mandatory settling-in programme, workers are instructed to adopt measures to shield themselves from scams. Additionally, the authorities conduct regular anti-scam education initiatives for workers already employed in Singapore.

Shanmugam highlighted, “They are educated on the latest scam trends so that they are equipped to detect scams and become advocates for scam prevention within their own community.”

Impact and additional measures

As per the annual scam statistics for 2023, people in Singapore have lost over $2.3 billion to scams since 2019, causing significant financial strain to many individuals who have lost substantial portions of their income and lifetime savings.

In efforts to safeguard migrant workers not only against financial scams but also common crimes, the police administer the Domestic Guardians Programme. This initiative provides training to migrant domestic workers on preventing crimes such as housebreaking, trespassing, and abuse.

Source: Firstpost

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