SINGAPORE: Some 50 people have lost at least S$18,000 (RM61,794) in total in 2023 after falling prey to impersonation scams on the Telegram messaging app.
The scammers would hijack their victims’ Telegram accounts by tricking them into providing their mobile phone numbers and Telegram-generated login codes, said the police and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) in a joint statement on Thursday.
Warning the public against falling for such scams, the authorities said scammers’ modus operandi includes the use of the compromised account of a contact known to victims.
There are four ways that these scammers usually operate, said the authorities.
Scammers would add their victims in to a “secret Telegram chat” and ask them for a screenshot of their Telegram chat history. They would simultaneously trigger a login code to be sent to the victims, which would show up in the screenshot. Victims could also be asked to search for specific usernames in the messaging app and send over a screenshot, which would include the login code. A URL link would be sent to victims under the guise of a “free Telegram membership”. Clicking on the link would result in the victim losing access to their account. Victims might also be asked for help to “verify or unblock” the account of a contact that had been restricted by Telegram. To do so, they would have to share their mobile number with another account masquerading as a customer service bot. The “bot” would then ask for their login code or send them a link with a “verification button”.
Upon gaining access to accounts, scammers would ask the victims’ contacts for loans or used information, such as photographs or videos, to extort money from the victim or their contacts. In some cases, the victim’s contacts were approached with the same ruse.
“Victims would only realise they had been scammed after they discover that their Telegram account is no longer under their control or when the loan is not returned,” said the police.
Impersonation scams have been on the rise in 2023. Earlier in August, The Straits Times reported that more than 120 people lost at least S$330,000 to similar scams across various platforms from Jan 1 to July 26.
If a Telegram account is compromised, it should be reported to the platform’s support helpline and friends and family should be informed so they do not fall prey to the scammers.
The police also advised the public to download the ScamShield App and set up security features such as two-factor authentication for banking, SingPass and social media apps, and setting transaction limits on Internet banking transactions. – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network