SG police warn of fake bank hotlines in Google search advertisements, victims lost S$495,000

The scammers would post fake advertisements on Google Search so that they would appear when people searched for banks' contact numbers. — Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

SINGAPORE: The police have warned of scam advertisements on Google search where fake bank hotlines would appear when users search for banks’ contact numbers.

Since last December, at least 15 victims have fallen for such scams, the police said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 19).

The losses amounted to at least S$495,000 (RM1.53mil).

In such cases, the victims wanted to seek the banks’ advice and searched for the banks’ contact numbers. They would come across the scam advertisement’s fake contact numbers, which appear as the first few search results on Google search.

The victims would call the fake number and speak to a scammer impersonating as a bank staff.

“After sharing the reasons for contacting the bank, victims would be informed that there were issues with their bank account, credit/debit cards or loan amount,” the police said.

The victims are then instructed to temporarily transfer the funds to bank accounts, under the pretext of resolving the bank account or credit or debit card issue, or to make a payment for the outstanding loan.

In some cases, victims would receive an SMS message with the sender name showing that of the bank – spoofed by the scammers.

The message would claim that the bank was facilitating a reset of the victims’ bank account “as part of the ‘Let's Fight Scam’ Campaign by the Anti-Scam Centre and Singapore Police Force”.

Other messages would also state that the victim needed to transfer money for early loan settlement.

The police said: “Victims would only realise that they had been scammed when they contacted the bank via the authentic hotline to verify the new bank account number or when the bank contacted them to verify the reason for the large sum of money transferred.”

The police advised people to always verify information with numbers listed on official bank website, or behind the cards issued by the banks.

Never transfer funds into bank accounts belonging to a stranger, and never disclose personal information or banking details and one-time passwords (OTP) to anyone, the police added.

Any fraudulent transactions should be reported to the bank immediately. – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network

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