Can you spot a scam? A guide to avoiding the top scams in Singapore

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Singapore

Publishing organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-03-06

Language: English

Authors: Stephanie Adeline – Data journalist, developer and project lead
Lim Min Zhang – Reporter and writer
Lee Pei Jie – Designer
Leonard Lai – Assistant digital editor
Tay Hong Yi – Reporter
Zachary Tia – Data visualisation intern


The Straits Times digital graphics team is a multi-disciplinary team focused on creating high-quality data-driven and visuals projects for editorial. Our audience are mostly Singaporeans from all walks of life, so we balance innovation and functionality for all of our projects.

Project description:

Scams have skyrocketed in Singapore. Millions of dollars are lost to conmen, and many of these scams start with a text, or a message on social media. To combat that, The Straits Times launched Stop Scams, an initiative to identify the different types of scams that have preyed on thousands of victims. As part of this initiative, we designed an interactive that dives into the modus operandi of the scammers and how to avoid getting scammed. It features quizzes mimicking real-life scenarios allowing the public to understand and detect scams.

Impact reached:

The interactive educated readers on how to spot red flags in messages to detect a scam. Today, scammers can steal money in a matter of seconds, if we aren’t keeping ourselves safe online. The simple act of clicking a link, as harmless as it sounds, can cause people to lose millions of dollars. This interactive features quizzes that mimick real, online scenarios, using real messages as examples to stop users from being scammed. The project gained over 100K views since it was published in March and is one of our top-viewed graphics this year. ST also hosted a Stop Scams exhibition at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre in May. The interactive, along with other projects in the initiative were showcased here to educate people, particularly seniors, who are more vulnerable to scams, on how to be vigilant online. The exhibition was attended by 30,000 people. We also received messages of gratitude from participants because our efforts have opened their eyes to scams, and offered solutions and solace to those who were scammed.

Techniques/technologies used:

To build the quiz, we built the interactive format using JavaScript and Vue.js. We also visualised data in datawrapper. Some animations were added in CSS. In addition, the graphics for the intro data visualisation and the text message simulation were created using Adobe Illustrator and exported to SVG.

Context about the project:

The hardest part of this project was figuring out how to keep it simple and not overwhelm the user with too much information, but also still make it informative enough that they walk away learning something from this. To ensure this, our graphics were designed to look like real messages. These messages are then annotated to spot the red flags. Simple animations such as jumping notification icons also helped the readers to relate to this quiz better.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Journalists play an important role in public service. The consequences for someone who is a victim of scams are long-lasting, both the financial and psychological impacts. However, our role is not just to explain the potential repercussions of not being digitally safe, but we also have a part to play in providing solutions. The purpose of this piece is to educate and prevent more from being scammed. This project was also an example of a great collaboration between the interactive graphics team and the rest of the newsroom. Together, we educated the public and helped them avoid scams through various engaging methods, including interactive quizzes, podcasts, videos, exhibitions, stories and more.

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