Commentary: Singapore’s SIM card misuse law - a shield against scams or just more cat-and-mouse games?

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SINGAPORE: How do you decide whether to accept a call from an unknown number? As people become more wary of +65 calls and overseas scammers spoofing local numbers with Singapore’s country code, scammers have been adapting by using local numbers to dupe unwitting victims.

Singapore's new law making it illegal to sell or misuse SIM cards for scams is a much-needed hard line in the fight against scams, making it tougher to access an authentic local number. But will the move help put an end to job and e-commerce scams that have seen an unprecedented boom in 2023?

Job scams, the most reported con in Singapore that exploits those seeking ad hoc income and flexible work, are part of a growing trend of fraudsters using Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to target potential victims.

What makes these platforms fertile ground for such fraud? Their need for constant growth means a frictionless sign-up process is good for business - social media and messaging platforms do not acquire 3 billion daily active users by making life hard for potential new customers.

And herein lies the crux of the issue. Despite needing a phone number on registration, there is often no requirement to tie this to an authentic identity - making it an open playground for fake and untraceable profiles. Online job hunters are then left to assess the legitimacy of online opportunities with limited information, a recipe that often leads to loss.

Although this may feel like a dereliction of duty by these platforms, the reality is that a shift toward stricter authentication is simply at odds with business objectives. The race to acquire new users and sell advertising aligns them with the wants of most regular users - both happy for minimal identity checks to keep things easy.

CAT AND MOUSE GAME WITH SCAMMERS

Can the same be said for scams on our favourite e-commerce sites? Fortunately, the requirement to authenticate seller accounts with phone numbers linked to our identity is established best practice. Yet sadly, ...

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