SINGAPORE: Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo addressed the issue of scams, among others, in a year-end interview with Lianhe Zaobao. And while scams have existed for a long time, the ways of protecting people against being victimized by scammers must always be updated and consolidated.

Ms Teo said that the option to block unsolicited and unexpected overseas calls would be made available in Singapore and added that as someone with an elderly parent, she finds this a reassuring measure that will give people extra protection against scams.

In the interview, the Minister gave a preview of how the government will involve companies in delivering various digital services, specifically telcos.

So today, if you’re alert, you see a +65 you know that’s not a real local call. It’s actually coming from overseas. So you don’t answer it, right?

But you find it very annoying. So we are going to make available an option for people who don’t expect to get any overseas calls in the first place. They can activate an option to totally block all overseas calls.”

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For her own elderly parent, she will activate this feature, which would “help to protect the vulnerable who may accidentally answer an overseas call from a scammer and be tricked into it.”

Ms Teo warned that “scams can spread like wildfire, going “very far” and “very fast,” but added that digital technologies enable (scams) to spread like wildfires.”

Now then, if you think about what do you do when there’s a wildfire, right? What do you do when there is a wildfire? Of course, firstly you need firefighters and you need to stand up a specialized team to deal with it, which we have done.”

For Singapore, the firefighters are the Anti-Scam Command, which has expanded beyond law enforcers to include banks, which are able to freeze accounts that have been targeted by scammers.

Continuing with the metaphor, she added that instead of fighting fires all the time, You need to go upstream to try and prevent the wildfires in the first place.”

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Ms Teo then went on to talk about preventative measures such as the Online Criminal Harms Act, which ropes in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as well as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), as well as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in the different preventative measures taken.

Ms Teo added one more endeavour in “tightening the circle” of protection for Singaporeans against getting scammed, saying that the government is now working with Google because Google is the one that has a say over the Android phones. We are working with them to improve the anti-malware measures.”

Watch Ms Teo’s interview here. /TISG

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