Police warn of scams involving fake bank hotlines on Google Search

Screenshot of an example of scammers using Google Search to dupe victims seeking banks' contact numbers. (PHOTO: Singapore Police Force)
Screenshot of an example of scammers using Google Search to dupe victims seeking banks' contact numbers. (PHOTO: Singapore Police Force)

SINGAPORE — The police are alerting the public of a new scam variant on Google Search, whereby scammers dupe victims who search for bank contact numbers.

In a media release on Wednesday (19 January), the police said that at least 15 victims have fallen prey to such scams since December last year, with losses amounting to at least $495,000.

In these cases, the victims would search for the banks’ contact numbers via Google Search, as they wanted to seek their advice for various reasons. The scammers would post advertisements that would appear when the users search for such contact numbers.

The victims would see these scam ads appearing as the first few search results, providing a fake contact number for victims to contact.

Believing that these are bank hotlines, victims would call the 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 are issues with their bank account, credit/debit cards or loan amount.

Police said in the media release that the scammer would then instruct the victims to temporarily transfer the funds to bank accounts provided, under the pretext of resolving the bank account or credit/debit card issue, or to make a payment for the outstanding loan.

In some cases, victims would receive SMS messages with headers spoofing that of the bank, claiming that the bank is resetting their bank accounts as part of the “Let’s Fight Scam” campaign by the Anti-Scam Centre and Singapore Police Force. In some cases, the SMS would state that the victim needs to transfer money for early loan settlement.

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.

Measures to prevent being scammed online

Police have advised the public to follow these crime prevention measures:

  • Always verify the authenticity of the information with numbers listed on official bank website or behind the cards issued by the banks;

  • Never transfer funds into bank accounts belonging to someone they do not know;

  • Never disclose personal information or banking details and OTP to anyone;

  • Report any fraudulent transactions to the bank immediately.

If the public have any information relating to such crimes, please call the police hotline at 1800-2550000, or submit it online. If you require urgent police assistance, dial 999.

For more information on scams, the public can visit the Scam Alert website, or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688.

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