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Singapore Minister Calls For International Anti-Fraud Collaboration

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In the opening speech for the 2023 Regional Anti-Scam Conference in Singapore, Sun Xueling, Minister of State for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development, highlighted the need for countries to cooperate in combatting fraud. The speech pointed out the international nature of modern scams, which cross borders easily thanks to modern technology. The Minister also emphasized technology’s role in increasingly sophisticated fraud schemes, including using artificial intelligence (AI) in deepfake impersonations.

Importance of International Cooperation

Thirty-four individuals at the conference represented fifteen countries. Addressing the attendees, Xueling cited the more than $55 billion lost worldwide to scams in 2021 alone and the ease with which these illicit schemes can cross borders. Given the global scale fraud presents, the Minister argued that “international cooperation to deal with scams is not a choice – it is a necessity. No one country can do this alone. We must stand united together to disrupt scammers’ operations in order to protect our people.”

Indeed, because of the fluidity with which illicit money travels between jurisdictions, individual states are ill-equipped to tackle the problem without international cooperation.

The speech focused on three things international cooperation would accomplish:

  • Funds recovery – Xueling urged countries to consider the positive impact dedicated anti-scam bodies could have on the tracing and recovery of funds if they combined their efforts transnationally.
  • International norms – Beyond the focus on funds recovery, international cooperation would also allow for better preventative action by equipping various stakeholders, such as financial institutions, to properly prevent scams in the first place.
  • Information sharing – In particular, states could significantly improve the effectiveness of ant-fraud efforts by sharing key criminal typologies and effective strategies with one another, streamlining international work to fight this trend.

The conference’s focus on international cooperation to disrupt criminal financial activities is timely. Several days earlier, between June 7-9, Interpol also held a conference in Singapore focusing on international cooperation to combat predicate crimes such as fraud, human trafficking, and environmental crime. Around the same time, the international policing body issued a press release about the connection between fraud and human trafficking, further emphasizing the high stakes involved in putting an end to fraudulent networks.

Use of Technology in Fraud

Xueling also pointed out the role of AI in the increasing sophistication of fraudulent schemes. The minister pointed out that AI has, for example, recently given rise to the use of deepfake videos and other difficult-to-detect impersonations overseas. 

International data supports this concern. For example, in March 2023, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FCA) explained how AI could be used to send fraudulent messages to individuals impersonating loved ones asking for money. Similarly, in 2019, a British CEO believed he was communicating with his parent company’s German CEO, because he thought he recognized the cadence of his voice. As it turns out, he’d fallen victim to a sophisticated deepfake scam.

However, the speech pointed out that just as technology has the potential to aid scammers, it can also fuel better anti-fraud tactics. The Minister highlighted the ways in which technology could help combat these new fraud forms, from scam detection registries to enabling better fraud surveillance. 

In line with this, firms should consider the role of technology increasingly important in their financial crime risk management. 

Key Takeaways

As firms consider how best to implement tactics to combat rising scam and fraud threats, they should consider the global scale of the problem. Even as countries marshall their collaborative initiatives, there are already international sources of data firms can consult to ensure their practices are soundly risk-based, such as the Global Anti-Scam Alliance’s Global State of Scams Report.

Finally, firms should consider how technology might empower anti-fraud teams to make better use of their time and analytical capabilities by reducing false positives and offering better insights. Even firms not yet ready for a technological overhaul can benefit from AI overlays to supercharge their risk detection.

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Originally published 22 June 2023, updated 23 June 2023

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