Police warns of scam advertisements on Google Search disguised as bank's hotline number

Anyone with information on such scams can call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000.

Alfie Kwa | January 19, 2022, 03:46 PM

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Since December 2021, at least 15 victims have fallen prey to such scams involving fake bank hotlines with losses amounting to at least S$495,000.

The scams involve fake advertisements on Google Search that would appear when the user searches for bank contact numbers.

How do these scams work?

The scammers would post advertisements on Google Search that show a bank's contact numbers.

The victims who search for the banks’ contact numbers via Google Search would then see the scam advertisements appearing as the first few search results.

Image from SPF.

These scam advertisements would provide a fake contact number for victims to contact.

As they believe that these are the actual bank's hotlines, victims would call the number shown in the advertisement and speak to a scammer impersonating as bank staff.

Impersonating bank officials

In this case, they would share the reasons for contacting the bank and then, the scammers would tell victims that there are issues with their bank account, credit or debit cards or loan amount.

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 or debit card issue or to make a payment for the outstanding loan.

In some cases, victims would receive an SMS with headers spoofing that of the bank to appear more authentic.

The SMS will 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 or would state that the victim needed to transfer money for early loan settlement.

Image from SPF.

The victims only realised 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.

May be more dangerous now

This scam method might be more dangerous after the recent OCBC phishing scams became prominent in the news.

A customer who receives a suspicious SMS may wish to contact the bank for verification, and search for the bank's phone number.

But he may then fall victim to this Google Search scam which lures in victims with a fake bank number.

What to do?

The police advise members of the public to always verify the authenticity of the information with numbers listed on the official bank website or behind the cards issued by the banks.

They should also not transfer funds into bank accounts belonging to someone you do not know and not disclose your personal information or banking details and OTP to anyone.

However, if you find yourself in that situation, report any fraudulent transactions to your bank immediately.

If you have any information relating to such crimes, please call the Police Hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.

If you require urgent Police assistance, please dial ‘999’.


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Top images from SPF.