Have you ever received a phone call or a text message from someone claiming to be your friend, but you don’t recognize their number? Have you ever been asked to lend money to someone who says they are in trouble, but they don’t want to meet you in person? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have been a target of a fake friend scam.
What is a fake friend scam?
A fake friend scam is a type of fraud where scammers contact victims, pretending to be someone they know, and ask for financial assistance. The scammers usually use spoofed or stolen phone numbers, and sometimes even use voice-changing software to sound like the victims’ friends. They often claim that they have lost their phone, changed their number, or are facing some kind of emergency. They then ask the victims to transfer money to a local bank account, promising to pay them back later. However, once the money is transferred, the scammers disappear and the victims never hear from them again.
How prevalent is this scam in Singapore?
According to the Singapore Police Force, more than 6,300 people fell prey to fake friend scams in Singapore last year and collectively lost an equivalent of nearly $16 million1. The police also warned of the re-emergence of this scam in 2024, with at least 945 victims cheated of more than S$3.2 million since January2. In the latest case, five Malaysians were extradited to Singapore over fake friend scam calls involving over $1 million in lost funds.
How can you protect yourself from this scam?
Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to this scam:
- Be wary of unusual requests from someone purporting to be someone you know via phone calls or text messages. Do not provide any personal or bank account details, or transfer any money, without verifying their identity.
- Verify whether the request is legitimate by checking with your friend through alternative means, such as physical meet-ups, video calls, or email, other than using the new contact details on your phone.
- Use the ScamShield app to block scam calls and messages, and set security features like two-factor authentication for your online accounts and transactions.
- Report any suspicious phone calls or messages to the police via the online portal or the anti-scam hotline at 1800-722-6688.
What are the consequences of falling for a fake friend scam?
Falling for a fake friend scam can have serious consequences, both financially and emotionally. Here are some of them:
- You may lose a large amount of money, which can affect your savings, investments, or debts. You may also face difficulties in recovering the money, as the scammers may have withdrawn or transferred it to another account.
- You may feel betrayed, hurt, or angry, as you may have trusted the person who contacted you, thinking that they were your friend. You may also feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed, as you may have been deceived by their lies.
- You may lose your confidence, security, or privacy, as you may have shared your personal or bank account details, or other sensitive information, with the scammers. You may also worry about the safety of your friend, whose identity or phone number may have been compromised.
- You may damage your relationship with your friend, as you may have doubts or suspicions about their authenticity or integrity. You may also blame them for not securing their phone or account, or for not informing you about their situation.
To avoid these consequences, you should always be vigilant and careful when dealing with requests for money from someone claiming to be your friend. You should also seek support from your family, friends, or professional help, if you have been affected by this scam.
A fake friend scam is a type of fraud where scammers contact victims, pretending to be someone they know, and ask for financial assistance. This scam is very prevalent in Singapore, and has caused many people to lose money and trust. To protect yourself from this scam, you should always verify the identity of the person who contacts you, and never transfer money without meeting them in person. You should also report any suspicious phone calls or messages to the police, and use the ScamShield app to block them. Lastly, you should help raise awareness about this scam, and educate yourself and others on how to avoid it.
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Q: How do the scammers get my friend’s name and number?
A: The scammers may have obtained your friend’s name and number from various sources, such as social media platforms, online directories, phishing emails, or data breaches. They may also use a technique called social engineering, where they manipulate you into revealing information about your friend by pretending to be someone else.
Q: How do the scammers know when to call or text me?
A: The scammers may monitor your online activity, such as your posts, comments, likes, or shares, to find out when you are most likely to be online or available. They may also use automated software to generate random calls or messages to multiple numbers, and then wait for someone to respond.
Q: How can I tell if the phone number is spoofed or stolen?
A: A spoofed phone number is one that is altered to appear as a different number, usually with a local prefix, such as “+65”. A stolen phone number is one that is taken over by the scammers, who may have hacked into your friend’s phone or SIM card. You can check if the phone number is spoofed or stolen by using online tools, such as reverse phone lookup, or by calling your friend’s original number and asking if they have contacted you recently.
Q: What should I do if I have already transferred money to the scammers?
A: If you have already transferred money to the scammers, you should immediately contact your bank and the police, and provide them with the details of the transaction, such as the date, time, amount, account number, and recipient name. You should also keep all the evidence of the communication with the scammers, such as screenshots, voice recordings, or text messages. The police will investigate the case and try to recover the money, but there is no guarantee that you will get it back.
Q: How can I help raise awareness about this scam?
A: You can help raise awareness about this scam by sharing your experience or knowledge with your family, friends, and online community. You can also follow the official channels of the Singapore Police Force, such as their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, to get the latest updates and advisories on scams. You can also join the Scam Alert Network, a volunteer initiative that aims to spread the word about scams and educate the public on how to avoid them.