By April 15, 2020, or possibly even earlier, calls you receive from local numbers will no longer carry a '+' prefix on your caller ID screen; only calls from abroad (including those from local numbers made overseas) will.
This is a first step the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is taking, in partnership with local telcos, to help Singaporeans increase their awareness of potential scam calls — many of which originate overseas.
This was announced among other measures by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, in his parliamentary speech on Tuesday (Mar. 3) during the Ministry of Communications and Information’s (MCI) Committee of Supply debate.
More than S$21 million lost to scams
According to the 2019 Singapore Police Force (SPF) Annual Crime Brief, more than S$21 million was reported to have been lost to impersonation scams in Singapore in 2019.
At the moment, Janil noted that IMDA has already worked with telcos to block commonly-spoofed numbers like 999 and 995, but acknowledged this isn't sufficient, and are hence introducing this additional new measure.
"But we will move on to introduce measures to stop international scammers from trying to spoof numbers that look like they are a local number, targeting our citizens, by introducing a requirement to have the plus symbol as a prefix for all overseas calls.
So all overseas calls coming in will be identified and identifiable by having this plus prefix, and we hope this will help consumers better identify international spoof calls and reject them."
Prior to this, IMDA has been working with the SPF and telecommunication operators to take steps to protect the public from spoof calls.
Spoof calls are essentially scam calls, where the scammers mask their original country code and are able to make their phone numbers appear like local numbers on a potential victim's caller ID.
In this way, scammers can mislead the public, tricking them into thinking that the call comes from an official government agency.
How this will work precisely
The "+" sign prefix will be displayed on phone screens for all international incoming calls.
For example, + 4241 2345.
Local calls will not appear with the "+" prefix.
Instead, they'll just be displayed like this: 6955 0221, for instance.
So if you see what seems like a local number with a "+" sign, such as + 6955 0221, this is likely to be a scam or spoofed call.
This is to allow those who are not expecting any overseas calls to be more vigilant and exercise greater care when answering calls showing a "+" prefix.
Janil added that IMDA will continue to work with stakeholders to develop longer-term measures to address call spoofing, such as telecommunication network-based solutions.
"MCI will work closely with other agencies in the newly formed Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams announced by MHA to strengthen our collective efforts to tackle this problem."
Top image via JESHOOTS-com on Pixabay