COS 2021: Scams Involving Bank Customers

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): Chairman, Sir, it has been heart-wrenching for us in this House to see our residents being scammed of their hard-earned monies. Many are elderly and have little avenue to earn money lost.

As Singapore moves towards widespread adoption of digital payments, the risks are heightened. As the money scammed are usually transferred from bank accounts, what role should banks play in trying to minimise the risks for vulnerable customers? It does seem that different banks may have varying requirements when it comes to transactional security. Therefore, I welcome the recent consultation paper by the MAS on a proposed notice on identity verification. This will mandate the types of information financial institutions must use to verify the identity of an individual for non face-to-face contact.

I wish to follow up on a suggestion made by the former Member of Parliament for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat, during last year’s Committee of Supply of offering an option of a cooling-off period for inter-bank transfers. Has the MAS considered this and could it be implemented?

On vulnerable customers, there was a Business Times article last weekend by David Hardoon, a former special adviser to the MAS. He noted that some financial institutions were using AI and psychometrics to help predict which customers might be more susceptible to scam attacks. This would assist in developing bespoke advisories and training programmes to help inoculate such customers from falling prey to scams. To what extent is the MAS working with banks on this?

Finally, I would like to make an observation regarding the freezing of scammed monies in bank accounts in Singapore. In response to my Parliamentary Question in January 2021, the Minister for Home Affairs said that where the suspect was not arrested, a Court order was needed to return the money to victims, which process might take at least a year. As such a delay could cause serious hardships, could the agencies and banks work on a more expedited process?

Prime Minister’s Office
26 February 2021

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