Financial Scams To Look Out For And How To Spot The Red Flags

Deborah Gan
Last updated Aug 24, 2022

Scammers are always tweaking their tactics to stay relevant and convincing. Who’s to know if you become the next victim? Keep your eyes peeled on these red flags, so you don’t end up a falling victim.

In the past few years, scams have been more prevalent than ever. According to Channel News Asia, crime levels in Singapore in 2021 increased to nearly 24 per cent from 2020, with scam cases taking a huge portion of the cake. More than half of the 46,196 reported cases involved scams.

Scammers are constantly evolving their tactics and becoming more convincing to the uninitiated. Especially during the pandemic where it has seen a spike in online activity, scammers have since then used it to their advantage and shifted their scams online.

Scams were so easily identified in the past, but they are getting increasingly difficult to spot if you don’t remain vigilant. Want a refresher on the latest scams these days? Here are the top 6 types of scams you should look out for so you don’t fall prey to them.

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Type of scamCases reported in 2021Increase in cases from 2020
Job scams4,5544,422
Non-banking related phishing scams2,7832,139
E-commerce scams2,707-652
Investment scams2,4761,380
Loan scams2,274296
Banking-related phishing scams2,237897
Social media impersonation scams1,614-1,305
Internet love scams1,099276
China officials impersonation scams752310
Fake friend call scams685685
Source: CNA

1. Job scams

Job scams have been the most common type of scams out there. As of December 2021, 4554 victims have fell prey, and up to S$91 million was lost to scammers, according to scamalert.sg. In fact, the largest amount lost by an individual is a whopping S$4.3 million.

Every now and then, I’ll receive messages from random Amys and Williams claiming they’re from tech giants like TikTok or Facebook and asking if I would like to earn S$300 a day for a part-time job with short flexible working hours and the convenience of working from home. Tempting? Yes. But do I do it? Hell no. 

These jobs they offer usually range from cold calling to doing multiple surveys online and even listing products on your own Carousell account. If you choose to entertain them, they might really transfer you small amounts immediately after the first few ‘jobs’. And when they have you on their hooks, they’ll request for a ‘small fee’ to be deposited in order to earn even more money. That’s when victims become greedy and convince themselves that it’s a legitimate job and end up transferring huge amounts to them, only to have them disappear.

These scammers are very smart too. They don’t use their real name, their display picture isn’t even theirs, and their telegrams don’t have their contact information. The only thing you can find is their fake telegram handle linked to their telegram account, which they can easily delete anytime.

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2. Phishing scams

For scammers who carry out phishing scams, their main goal is to get the victim’s personal details like NRIC, PINs, bank details, credit card numbers and OTPs. They may get it through many means, like a call, text message or email. But gone were the days when they would lure victims into thinking they won a trip or prize money. Let’s face it — no one falls for them these days right?

Scammers are getting creative. They may pose as government officials or bank representatives and get the details out of you or design an email or a website such that it looks identical to the official website. One example my friend encountered recently was an email from Spotify which prompted her to change her password. But upon scrutinising, she realised that the URL they provided was not the same as the official Spotify website.

Since phishing scams have been on the rise these days, many government websites, banks and corporations have repeatedly emphasised that they will not get your official details over the phone or through automated voice machines. It’s best you verify that the source is legitimate and never reveal any personal information. You should also enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an added layer of security.

3. Investment scams

If you’re a frequent user of Telegram, you’ve probably gotten your fair share of being randomly added to investment groups by suspicious users. In the group chat, they’ll ask you to click on a link and buy an investment product that promises high returns at almost no risk.

Other investment scams also including receive messages from people who claim to be from stock brokers, banks or financial institutions. They’ll request for your personal information like your NRIC or passport number to fill up an investment form and transfer money to banks to pay for “administrative and security fees” for their high-yield investment products. Alternatively, they’ll also say a deposit is required before you receive your profits.

But of course, once you deposit or transfer any amount out, it’ll be as good as gone.

Investments always come with a risk, and a product that promises extremely high returns at low risks is most probably too good to be true. Always check the legitimacy of the sender, and never reveal your personal information online. You can also do a thorough check on the company and its representatives through the MAS website under the ​​Financial Institution’s Directory, Register or Representatives, and Investor Alert List.

If you want to invest, sign up for a brokerage account yourself on a legitimate and regulated website.

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4. Loan scams

Aside from banks and other financial institutions, you should never take up a loan with someone via a text message or a phone call. Scammers will usually send unsolicited messages via SMS or other messaging apps like Whatsapp or Telegram to offer you loans with no upfront or hidden costs, even up to 12x your annual income. To make it more convincing, they might even pose as staff from a licensed money lender or bank to gain your trust.

But here’s the catch. Even though it’s you borrowing the money, they often require their victims to transfer a certain amount first before the loan can be disbursed to you. They might also ask for sensitive personal information like your NRIC, Singpass details, bank account numbers and OTPs. With such information, they can harass you and threaten you to give more payments.

In Singapore, even licensed moneylenders are not allowed to advertise any loans. This is why any text message you receive is definitely unsolicited. If you need a loan, only go to trusted banks or legitimate financial institutions that are registered with the Registry of Moneylenders. When you get a loan, it is mandatory for you to meet the borrower at their business plan and physically verify you before granting you the loan. So any form of transaction online is very likely a scam.

If you need cash urgently, consider signing up for a personal loan with attractive rates on our website with any of these trusted banks in Singapore.

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5. Love scams

Love scams take the longest to execute because the scammers would usually invest time into getting to know someone as a friend or a potential love interest. They would reach out to victims on social media and befriend them over a period of time before claiming that they have sent over valuable gifts to the victims. When the trap is set, victims will receive phone allegedly phone calls from the “delivery couriers” and request for a fee to be paid in order to receive the parcel.

Other variants of love scams also include scammers requesting the victims to send over money when they are in financial need, by purchasing gift cards and sharing the activation codes with the scammers, or by directly transferring money to their bank accounts.

To avoid falling prey to such scams, you should always be wary when befriending strangers online, even if they reveal their faces to you over video calls. You should also never send money to people you don’t know or whom you have not met in person before.

6. Online purchase scams

It is no secret that Singaporeans love their deals. But when a deal becomes unreasonably good, you should take a step back and consider the legitimacy of the seller, product and website. 

Online purchase scams usually place ads for mobile gadgets, shoes or concert tickets that are way below market price. The seller will request for payment and, at times, also ask for additional payments for duties or delivery charges after the initial payment. But of course, once you transfer the money over, the seller disappears, and your item never shows up.

In other similar online purchase scams, you may receive phone calls, texts or emails to pay for items you did not purchase. In some cases, the scammer will pose as an international courier service company like DHL or J&T and request for payment on a certain item that requires extra taxes. However, if you’re a material gworl (like me) who often makes multiple purchases from different sites simultaneously, it’s can be quite difficult to keep track of all your items, thereby increasing the chances of falling prey to such scams.

Always choose reputable sellers and trusted shipping platforms for high-value items. You should also always insist on official payment methods within the platform or cash on delivery to ensure the legitimacy of the payment. When in doubt, call the official hotline of the courier service or shopping platform to confirm if the extra payment is needed or not.


By Deborah Gan
A mahjong addict with an undying love for dogs, Deborah is always on the hunt for cheap deals because she is always broke. That is why she is attempting to be more financially savvy to be.. less broke.


Deborah Gan August 24, 2022 94970