Mobile app launched in Singapore to identify and block scam messages, calls

A new mobile app ScamShield blocks phone numbers and SMSes from known scam numbers. — TODAY pic
A new mobile app ScamShield blocks phone numbers and SMSes from known scam numbers. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 22 — The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) on Friday launched a mobile application that can identify and block scam messages and phone calls.

Called ScamShield, the app uses artificial intelligence to identify keywords in messages from unknown contacts and move them into a “junk” folder, which will be created in the user’s phone.

It also allows users to report scam messages and calls via the app. Incoming phone numbers will be checked against a list of known scam numbers or those reported by other users, and blocked.

Such reports help to update the database, which will be shared with the police, NCPC said. The police, in turn, will provide the council with data of known scam phone numbers.

While it reduces the chances for scammers, who often initiate contact with potential victims via short message service (SMS) or phone calls, the app does not have access to users’ location, personal data or their contact lists.

It also does not require users to register with their mobile numbers.

“Only messages sent by unknown numbers will be read by the app, and only those identified as scam messages will be sent to NCPC for collation and shared with the police,” the council said.

However, given that phone numbers can be spoofed with ease, NCPC warned users that numbers not blocked by the app may still come from scammers.

ScamShield, jointly developed with the Government Technology Agency, is available only on iOS devices and can be downloaded from Apple's App Store for free.

Asked when it will be made available for Android users, NCPC said that it is still ironing out details.

At the virtual event on Friday, NCPC also launched a short film to warn members of the public of internet love scams.

The film will be broadcast on major television channels and screened on various social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

The council said that there were 385 cases of internet love scams reported in the first half of this year, with more than S$13 million lost to this type of scam alone.

Gerald Singham, NCPC's chairman, said that S$102 million were lost to various scams in the first six months of the year despite its efforts to educate the public on scams.

“Scammers are hiding behind a ‘cloak of invisibility’ provided by the internet and this makes the fight even harder simply because we cannot see them. If we want to win this fight, we need to heighten our senses and learn to spot the various signs of a scam.

”NCPC hopes that the app will shield the public from these scams, he said, and urged the public to stay vigilant.

Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Home Affairs, said at the virtual event on Friday that the number of scam cases has been on the rise.

“As we move to the year-end, many of us are going to spend more time online. I’d like to remind everyone to be vigilant and also to be wary about giving your personal information to anyone and to be more careful when you make transactions online. — TODAY

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