Singapore consumers more confident in recognising scams

Photo by Liza Summer

Toku has unveiled new research showing that three out of four of Singapore consumers are more confident in recognising scam calls and SMS than they were 12 months ago.

Toku’s Customer Engagement Report 2023 polled 1,000 Singapore residents to shine a spotlight on the way they interact with brands and found that this surge in consumer confidence can be attributed to dedicated educational efforts by private companies as well as policy initiatives by the government.

“Over the past 12 months, consumers in Singapore have shown a clear shift in their awareness of scams and a rise in their confidence in dealing with them,” said Thomas Laboulle, Founder and CEO, Toku.

“This has had an impact on the levels of trust they have for the communication channels they use, leading to changing preferences and behaviour in how they interact with brands.”

Education and policy initiatives bolster consumer confidence

An overwhelming 91% of respondents believe that organisations are making an effort to educate the public about scams, empowering them with the knowledge to identify and thwart scams effectively.

One recent government initiative that made a noticeable impact is the SMS Sender ID Registry (SSIR). In early 2023, the SSIR made it mandatory for organisations to register their brand names with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore to verify their identity when they use SMS.

87% of Singapore consumers said the SSIR has made it easier to identify the legitimacy of the SMS they receive. 63% also noted that the SSIR has resulted in them receiving less spam or scam messages.

When these spam or scam messages inevitably come through, 73% remarked that they are more confident in recognising them. Less than a quarter of consumers clicked on URLs in these messages over the past 12 months, and only 13% encountered monetary loss as a result.

Consumers are similarly confident when it comes to scam calls. 75% expressed confidence in their ability to identify scam calls, and the number of consumers who picked up a scam call in the past 12 months fell by 19%.

However, Toku’s research indicates that this confidence in spotting scams does not necessarily translate to a reduced risk of falling prey to scams.

Despite being digital natives, more than a third (36%) of millennials willingly click on suspicious SMS links even if they’re marked “Likely-SCAM” – the highest proportion amongst all the age groups. In contrast, only 8% of those aged 18-24 and 13% of those aged 45-54 are likely to click on these suspicious SMS links.

“This result may be surprising, but it’s in fact in line with numbers from the Singapore Police Force. Data released by the police in September 2023 showed that those aged 20 to 39 were the most likely to be cheated in scams, making up more than 50 per cent of all victims,” Laboulle added.

Shifting consumer preferences as communication channels grow

Consumers today engage with brands and organisations through a variety of channels, and the Toku research uncovered clear preferred channels for different types of communication.

For instance, SMS remains highly preferred by Singapore consumers for OTPs (79%), bank alerts (76%), and appointment reminders (72%). At the same time, WhatsApp gained popularity for marketing messages (47%) and order updates (55%).  

If given a choice, the majority of respondents will prefer to communicate with companies within their secure and trusted app environment. 62% of consumers would rather use an organisation’s official app for information gathering or issue resolution, rather than visiting the website, writing an email, or contacting the customer service hotline.

While email and messaging continue to reign supreme for updates and notifications, consumers show a strong preference to engage with phone support agents when seeking assistance for issue resolution.

Approximately 3 in 4 consumers are inclined to contact an agent over the phone when confronted with urgent matters pertaining to payment or finance. Similarly, 2 in 3 will reach out to a phone support agent to resolve issues associated with products and service faults.

In these instances, the majority of Singapore consumers (62%) display a strong preference for human agents due to their ability to provide clarifications without further delay. 57% are also confident that agents can effectively communicate and provide appropriate solutions to their problems.

Expectations run high on this front. 66% of Singapore consumers expect human customer service and support to be available 24/7, and 53% will feel frustrated if they are not able to easily access human support.

However, these sentiments may shift as chatbots and agents powered by AI continue to gain popularity and adoption in the coming year. 46% of Singapore consumers already say they are comfortable speaking to an AI virtual agent on the phone, and this number is expected to rise.

“Our research shows that Singapore consumers have varying levels of trust and preferences for different channels and types of communication. Organisations should pay attention to these preferences to meet customers where they want,” Laboulle said.

“The rise of generative AI gives companies an unprecedented opportunity to reinforce consumer trust and build more personalised customer experience. AI can take over repetitive and tedious tasks while empowering human agents with the right information and context to further improve their customer service.”

About the Toku Customer Engagement Report 2023

Toku commissioned an independent market research firm to conduct an online survey amongst a random sample of 1,000 Singapore consumers aged 18-65 including Singaporeans, PRs, and foreigners who are living in Singapore. Demographics are representative of Singapore’s general population.