Sylvia Lim calls for banks to reimburse scam victims

SINGAPORE: In Parliament on Monday (Sept 18), Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said that in light of the increase in reported cases of scams and cybercrimes, banks should take the lead in combating scams, instead of placing the burden of responsibility on consumers.

The WP chair said that these crimes have grown by 25 per cent year on year, for a total of 3,700 cases or 92 reports per day, adding, “On the human level, the suffering caused by such crimes is devastating.”

Scams have gotten more sophisticated, and even young people who are tech-savvy have been victimized by scammers, she added.

Ms Lim said that as an MP, she has met “too many residents” who’ve lost money, some in the hundreds of thousands, which is not likely to be recovered. She added that these losses are not just financial but impact their families, especially those with serious health issues who are vulnerable or are supporting others.

She then made the case for banks to reimburse scam victims who were not fraudulent or grossly negligent. Banks are also to take the lead in combating scams as banks are better qualified and have more resources than consumers.

“Banks should take on an outsized role in preventing (scams). Banks are able to monitor transactions, block suspicious payment flows, and keep abreast of the latest technological developments. Such endeavours are beyond the remit of most bank customers,” said Ms Lim.

She added that they are more equipped to identify and detect suspicious transactions, citing the example of when a customer’s account is emptied quickly, transfer limits are quickly changed, and new payees are added.

The WP Chair also said in her speech that moves for banks to reimburse scam victims who have not been grossly negligent or have had transactions involving cryptocurrency or international payments have begun in Britain and that Australia and the European Commission are also looking into similar measures.

“I believe that this solution can and should be implemented in Singapore. It could cover all transfers between banks in Singapore via the FAST and PayNow systems. Like the UK system, it could be scoped to protect customers who are consumers, small businesses, and charities.

This would give Singaporeans the confidence to transact using these methods without fear that their savings will be unknowingly siphoned off. It would also ensure that victims of these scams would be compensated in a timely manner without having to undergo a complex adjudication process,” added Ms Lim. /TISG

Over 6,600 Singaporeans have lost almost $100 million to recruitment scams since Jan

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