Consultation paper on equitable sharing of scam losses to be published in October 2023

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DETERMINING RESPONSIBILITY A “DIFFICULT ISSUE”

In his reply, Mr Tan said determining responsibility for scam losses was a “difficult issue”.

“We must … strike a balance between fairness, accountability and compassion,” he told the House. 

“There are some views that banks can easily absorb losses arising from individual scam cases, however full restitution without due consideration of culpability is neither fair nor desirable.

“Doing so can erode vigilance and personal responsibility, and lull users into complacency,” he said.

Mr Tan added that banks are required by the MAS to have secure digital systems, such as implementing multi-factor authentication to verify customers’ identities and authorise online transactions.

But scammers can still bypass these measures by deceiving customers into divulging their account access credentials or downloading malware, he said, adding that individual customers have the responsibility to protect access to their accounts through ways such as good cyber hygiene.

Meanwhile, MAS has issued guidance for banks on investigation processes and how to treat customers fairly in all disputes. The regulator also monitors how banks handle such disputes, said Mr Tan.

He also noted that the government was looking at Ms Lim’s suggestion on reintroducing physical security tokens, as well as monitoring the adequacy of rules regarding digital payment tokens and procedures at FIDReC.

Singapore currently adopts a three-pronged strategy to fight scams, ranging from upstream measures such as the ScamShield mobile app which filters and blocks scam messages and calls; to downstream measures like additional safeguards adopted by banks, he said.

These collective efforts are showing “some encouraging signs”, with the total amount of scam losses decreasing slightly in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022.

From January to June this year, the total amount that victims reported to have been cheated – S$334.5 million (US$245.7 million) – dropped by 2.2 per cent from S$342.1 million in the same period in 2022, according to data released by the police last week.

“Nevertheless, the scam situation remains serious. With more of us transacting digitally, bad actors are adopting increasingly sophisticated methods to target victims,” he told the House.

“We must constantly sharpen our approach to fight scams in this rapidly evolving landscape.”

In a press release on Monday, the Association of Banks in Singapore said major retail banks here have enhanced their security measures to protect customers from malware scams, and will “progressively introduce refinements or new measures to keep pace with changes in the threat landscape”.

For example, OCBC rolled out a feature last month that prevents users from logging onto their banking app if it detects potentially risky apps downloaded from unofficial portals. Citibank has also introduced a similar anti-scam feature on its mobile app.

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