Singapore Takes New Steps to Fight Online Banking Scams

Photo of the Singapore MAS Logo on a Building

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) on Thursday released a new set of cybersecurity measures to strengthen the country’s digital banking systems and protect customers from scams.

This builds on a list of measures announced in January this year in the wake of SMS-phishing scams targeting customers of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC), one of Singapore’s largest banks. OCBC customers lost up to $10.2 million to scams in December 2021.

Singaporean authorities are calling on banks and stakeholders, including customers, to take steps to stop online banking scams. Banks will work with the MAS and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to implement the new directives.

The Deputy Managing Director in charge of Financial Supervision at MAS, Ho Hern Shin, noted that the new measures will strengthen customers’ ability to protect themselves, and increase vigilance across the banking ecosystem.

Customer Protection Measures

In line with the latest measures, banks in Singapore will require additional customer account confirmations and limit online transfers to $5,000 or lower. They will also enhance their fraud surveillance systems to address a “broader range of scam scenarios.”

Furthermore, banks will provide customers with a “self-service kill switch” to suspend their accounts if they suspect it has been compromised.

Meanwhile, as part of an “ecosystem approach” to fighting scams, authorities are working on revised E-Payments User Protection Guidelines “aimed at achieving an equitable loss sharing” between consumers and banks.

Customers are urged to use existing mobile banking apps instead of web browsers when accessing their accounts or conducting transactions. Banking apps will continue to receive updates to enhance their security and functionality.

Customers are key in the fight against scams and must uphold proper “online banking hygiene practices” like closely following scam advisories and alerts sent out by the SPF, National Crime Prevention Council, MAS, and banks, the directive said. To communicate with banks and for any other information, customers are encouraged to only use official sources such as the MAS Financial Institution Directory or the information found on bank cards and ATMs.

Additionally, customers are reminded never to divulge their internet banking credentials or passwords to anyone and turn on in-app notifications on their apps to keep up to date with the latest advisories.

ABS Standing Committee on Fraud

An ABS Standing Committee on Fraud (SCF), made up of seven of Singapore’s most important domestic banks, will support the Anti-Scam Taskforce — which recovered $21.2 million from thousands of scams in its first year of operation in 2020.

The Committee will report to the ABS Council, bolstering the industry’s anti-scam efforts and aiming to “reinforce public confidence in the security of digital banking,” the announcement said.

The work of the SCF will ultimately comprise wider banking industry anti-scam efforts, such as customer education, authentication, surveillance, customer handling and recovery, and equitable loss sharing.

“Combating scams, whether digital or otherwise, requires the effort and cooperation of everyone,” the Chairman of the Association of Banks in Singapore, Wee Ee Cheong, said.

Although the new measures may make certain online banking transactions take longer, this is a small price to pay for better security and protection of funds, the statement said.

Online Banking Is a Lucrative Target

The risks of online banking are myriad, with various socially engineered scams running rampant today. Netizens lose over $1 billion every year to online scams involving malware, facilitated by mobile banking trojans like TeaBot.

New cybersecurity measures in Asian countries like Japan and Singapore are an integral part of boosting global cybersecurity. Similar measures are being implemented all over the world, notably in North America and Europe, as part of a greater master plan at a time when cybercrime is the top global risk.

For watertight online banking security, read our article on the five best VPNs for online banking and our take on premium antivirus solutions.

Tech researcher & communications specialist
Mirza has an education background in Global Communications, has worked in advertising, marketing, journalism and television over the years while living in several different countries. He is now working to consolidate news and outreach at VPNoverview.com, while in his free time he likes to work on documentary projects, read about sociology and write about world events.