Investment scam reports doubled over last 3 years

A significant number of investment scams are committed by syndicates operating in foreign countries.
A significant number of investment scams are committed by syndicates operating in foreign countries.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The number of investment scams reported to the police over the last three years has doubled from 200 to 400, with more unregulated online investment platforms springing up.

In the same period from 2015 to last year, 30 people were charged by the Commercial Affairs Department for their role in 14 investment scams.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, citing these figures in a written reply to a parliamentary question yesterday, noted that the number of successfully prosecuted cases may look low compared to the number of police reports.

This is because a significant number of investment scams are committed by syndicates operating in foreign countries, he said.

These scams are typically offered on online investment platforms which allow trades across a wide range of products, such as currencies, shares and commodities, and are promoted via online advertisements, e-mails and unsolicited phone calls and messages.

The operators of these online platforms are also usually based outside Singapore, and payments are made directly to their overseas bank accounts.

In addition, the investment assets offered by these scammers - for example, distressed properties and agricultural products such as seaweed farms - are also overseas and difficult for the police to track down conclusively, Mr Shanmugam said.

He also noted that a single investment scam may have multiple victims, resulting in many police reports being made.

In some cases, some of the money alleged to be lost was also not due to scams, but the fluctuations of the markets, he added, responding to Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) who asked about the proportion of successfully prosecuted cases versus reported cases.

Mr Shanmugam said the police will continue to work closely with foreign law-enforcement counterparts to crack down on overseas syndicates targeting Singaporeans.

The Home Affairs and Law ministries are also looking at whether to strengthen the legislative levers against fraud offences, as part of the ongoing review of the Penal Code.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2018, with the headline 'Investment scam reports doubled over last 3 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe