July 02, 2020
Telephone scams have proliferated at an alarming rate in recent months as more and more employees telecommute from home. SG$7 million was lost from January to April alone this year. This amount is an increase of 40 times from the same period last year.1 Many of the victims received emails, text messages or calls masquerading as companies they know or trust, such as telecommunications and postal services. During the course of the call, the scammers would ask the victims to provide valuable personal details such as bank account details and emails on phishing sites meant to harvest data for illicit uses.
Phishing attacks and scams use both fear and financial incentives to try to prompt users to respond. The COVID-19 pandemic has additionally given bad actors new ways to tap on current public fear. Authorities have warned of fake healthcare and contact-tracing officials who have made use of a range of tactics to coerce recipients into handing over personal information or face legal repercussions.
Tech support scams in particular have seen a spike in cases. A recent case involved the caller impersonating a local telecommunications company and Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) officials. The victim was told that her IP address had been compromised for significant transactions and asked to hand over her personal details and OTP for verifying the account and investigation purposes. The woman lost $94,000 and only discovered the ruse when notified by the police.2
Safe to say, most official calls from banks or public authorities will not take place in the form of automated phone calls, which is common with most phishing scams. The public offices will not ask you for your financial details, on-the-spot payments, or ask you to collect documents if you do not have existing matters with them. When receiving a suspicious call, you can always verify the authenticity of the calls or instructions by using official modes of contact, such as through an organisation’s hotline.
Scams conducted by telephone are a risk factor that every organisation needs to be aware of. Of the SG$7 million that was lost to scammers posing as tech support staff, nearly half of this amount was lost in April alone. This was during Singapore’s circuit breaker, which saw the vast majority of the workforce working from home on their personal devices.
We must always keep in mind that our personal data is valuable and vital. For employees, it is important that everyone in the organisation is aware of the data management best practices and are up-to-date on the current landscape. Employees and organisations alike can help to reduce the risk of data and financial loss by keeping a cool head and evaluating the reasons for the call.
At Shred-it, we can help get you started with steps to mitigate risk, as well as a free quote and security risk assessment. Contact us today.
This article is provided for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not take, or refrain from taking, actions based upon the content of this article. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes. Please seek professional legal advice.
1Over $7m lost to scammers posing as tech support staff (2020, June 05). Retrieved June 23, 2020, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/over-7m-lost-to-scammers-posing-as-tech-support-staff
2S'pore woman loses S$94,000 to scammers over 3 days, only realises when police calls to tell her. (2020, June 5). Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://mothership.sg/2020/06/singtel-tech-support-scam-94000/