Police warn of fake bank direct lines in Google search ads, victims lost $495,000

SINGAPORE — Police have warned of scam ads on Google Search where fake bank direct lines appear when users search for bank contact numbers.

Since last month, at least 15 victims have fallen victim to such scams, police said in a statement on Wednesday (January 19th).

Losses amounted to at least $495,000.

In such cases, the victims wanted to ask the banks for advice and sought the contact numbers of the banks. They would then come across the fake contact numbers from the scam advertisement, which appeared as the top search results on Google.

Victims would call the wrong number and talk to a scammer posing as a bank employee.

“After sharing their reasons for contacting the bank, victims would be notified that there were issues with their bank account, credit/debit cards or loan amount,” police said.

The victims were then instructed to temporarily transfer their funds to bank accounts provided by the scammer, under the guise of solving their bank account or credit or debit card problem, or making a payment for a loan in Classes.

In some cases, the victims received an SMS message with the sender’s name indicating that of the bank – impersonated by the scammers.

The message claimed that the bank was facilitating the reset of victims’ bank accounts “as part of the Anti-Scam Center and Singapore Police’s ‘Let’s Fight Scam’ campaign.”

Other messages also stated that the victim should transfer money for an early settlement of the loan.

The police said: “The victims would only realize that they had been scammed when they contacted the bank via the genuine hotline to verify the new bank account number or when the bank contacted them to verify the reason for the large sum of money transferred.”

A Google spokesperson said they work hard to ensure users’ ad experiences are safe.

“If we find advertisers violating our policies or misrepresenting ourselves, we take prompt action,” he said, noting the company’s advertiser identity verification feature, which requires advertisers to verify their legal name with Google. Their name and location will then be displayed on the ad.

He added that Google will continue to roll out the feature to all advertisers on its platforms.

Police have advised members of the public to always verify information with the numbers given on official bank websites or behind bank-issued cards.

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