To prevent migrant workers from falling prey to scams, the police and non-government organisations have been conducting engagement sessions at dormitories and campaigns at popular hangout places like Little India.
SINGAPORE: After earning some money from boosting sales on a selling app, a migrant worker, who gave his name as “Mohammad”, hoped he could bring in even more income from the platform to supplement his wages.
Instead, the construction supervisor lost S$3,900 to scammers.
“We had missions to complete – 20 boosts. Once we get the 20 boosts, we get the commission. After I had done one practice boosting, I earned … S$200 or S$400, I can’t remember exactly,” the 32-year-old said.
“After that when I earn, it’s like I got hope maybe in the next one I can earn again,” he added. “(But) I got scammed.”
As reports of scams continue to hit record levels, migrant workers in Singapore have not been spared. They lost S$24.9 million to scams last year, a 5.5-fold increase from 2019.
MIGRANT WORKERS MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO SCAMS
The promise of a quick buck has been the weapon of choice for scammers targeting migrant workers and their eagerness to supplement their meagre incomes.
Ms Dipa Swaminathan, the founder of charity ItsRainingRaincoats, said that migrant
workers are more vulnerable as they tend to be “more gullible than the average person” due to their trusting nature and grim working conditions.
“Workers are not paid very much … their needs are so much more and they often find themselves in dire positions, so it’s usually too much of a temptation for them to pass when they see something that they think could be a way out for them,” she said.
“The language barrier plays a part as well and the fact that they tend to be more trusting. They may not be as questioning as the rest of us. That makes them an easy target,” she added.
Ms Dipa recalled a victim who even sold his wife’s jewellery for money to pay for a scam.
She explained that, having been a scam victim herself, scammers are becoming more sophisticated and use psychoanalytical tools to prey in such a way that victims do not realise they are falling for a scam.
As a migrant worker earns an average of just S$450 a month, Ms Dipa said that the amount lost to scammers reflects the number of workers who have been scammed.
“You could make S$100,000 targeting one high net worth individual but you could also do that targeting 100 migrant workers, which might be easier. So I think they will continue to remain a very attractive target for scammers,” she said.
POLICE, NGOS INCREASING ENGAGEMENT
To prevent migrant workers from falling for scams, the police and non-government organisations (NGOs) have been conducting engagement sessions in dormitories and campaigns at popular hangout places like Little India.
For example, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) worked with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in April this year to conduct an outreach programme for workers at Terusan Recreation Centre. Officers engaged workers at a police booth and handed out advisories in their native languages.
In addition to such outreach initiatives are bi-monthly newsletters, anti-scam flyers and videos on social media.