Singapore proposes amendments to stop misuse of Singpass accounts

Singapore proposes amendments to stop misuse of Singpass accounts

Aim to tighten laws against money mules in order to prosecute them.

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Singapore is tightening laws to make it more difficult for individuals and criminal gangs to misuse Singpass for monetary gain.

Amendments to the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Bill (CMA), in conjunction with the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Bill (CDSA Bill) were introduced in Singapore Parliament on Tuesday to provide police with more powers to deal with those who misuse individual Singpass details.

The government said the amendments are meant to promote public vigilance and responsible behaviour in the use of payment and Singpass accounts.

The amendments also seek to disrupt the operations of criminal syndicates preying on Singaporeans and will empower the police to better act against money mules, and those who abuse Singpass to perpetrate scams and other crimes.

The government said scam cases have increased significantly and are a major problem in Singapore.

In 2022 alone, scam victims lost S$660.7 million to scams in the country.

The document notes that scams are often facilitated by money mules who help in the movement of scam monies.

 Money mules are typically individuals who hand over control of their payment accounts, for example bank accounts, to criminals, or who use their payment accounts to receive or transfer monies under the instruction of criminals.

The government said that currently a large number of money mules arrested by the police cannot be prosecuted due to difficulties in proving their intent to facilitate criminal activities.

Between 2020 and 2022, the police investigated more than 19,000 money mules. However, fewer than 250 cases were prosecutable.

In a statement on the proposed amendments, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said there is an emerging trend of Singpass users giving away their credentials (Singpass password and one-time password), usually for money.

Criminal activity

Using these Singpass accounts, criminals can register companies, open bank accounts, and sign up for new phone lines, to facilitate the perpetration of scams or other offences, the statement said.

It is often hard to prosecute such Singpass users today, under CMA, as the prosecution must prove that the Singpass user knowingly disclosed his credentials for wrongful gain or unlawful purposes, or that it would cause wrongful loss, which are difficult to do.

Under the proposed amendments it will be an offence if an individual:

  1. Discloses their Singpass password or access codes, or provides any other means of access to their Singpass account, and
  2. The individual did so, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the purpose of the disclosure is to commit or facilitate the commission of an offence.

The Singpass user will be presumed to have fulfilled condition (2), if the person disclosed their Singpass credentials in any of the following situations:

  • Where the person received any gain for disclosing their Singpass credentials;
  • Where the person disclosed their credentials knowing that the disclosure is likely to cause wrongful loss to any person; or
  • Where the person disclosed their credentials without taking reasonable steps to find out the identity and physical location of the person to whom he disclosed his credentials.

The MHA and SNDGO said these proposed provisions were based on actual situations, where individuals have deliberately sold or provided their Singpass credentials to criminal syndicates.

The proposed provisions also reinforce that Singpass users must be careful and exercise due diligence with regard to their Singpass credentials, so as to protect themselves and prevent Singpass from being abused, their statement said.

It also added that this was not intended to capture those who share their Singpass credentials for lawful purposes, such as seniors who need the help of their family members to make Singpass transactions.

It was also not intended to capture persons who were genuinely tricked into giving up their Singpass credentials.

The amendment also proposed for it to be an offence for an individual to obtain, retain, supply, offer to supply, transmit or make available, the Singpass credentials of another person to commit or facilitate the commission of any offence.

This is to deal with criminals who purchase Singpass credentials, and syndicates who engage in the trading of Singpass credentials.

MHA and SNDO said individual payment accounts, including bank accounts, and Singpass accounts were for individual use.

“Another person should not use them, especially if we do not know who the other party is or what the transactions are for. Everyone has a role to play in the fight against scams and should exercise care and responsibility in the use of our payment accounts and Singpass,” the statement said.

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