$41.3m lost to scammers in first quarter

E-commerce scams top list; some cases involve 'Covid-19 items'

A scam alert notice put up near ATMs at Woodlands MRT station. The police also warned of a rise in bank phishing scams and Internet love scams.
A scam alert notice put up near ATMs at Woodlands MRT station. The police also warned of a rise in bank phishing scams and Internet love scams.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

E-commerce scams proved to be commonplace in the first three months of this year, with "Covid-19-related items" accounting for about one in four such cases.

It was among several scams highlighted by the police that have enabled fraudsters to get away with at least $41.3 million between January and March this year.

The total amount lost has grown by 27.9 per cent compared with the same period last year, the police disclosed in a media statement yesterday.

The police said that fraudulent sellers duped 1,159 victims out of at least $1.3 million in e-commerce scams in the first quarter of this year.

The largest amount lost in a single case was $175,000.

"The merchandise involved in such scams included Covid-19-related products such as face masks, and electronic products such as game consoles and phones," said the police.

E-commerce scams involving electronic products were of particular concern, with more than 530 victims losing at least $380,000 to fraudulent sellers.

The second most common scam type was social media impersonation, said the police, with 466 reports of such scams filed in the first quarter of the year, a more than ten-fold increase from the 33 cases reported last year in the same period.

In such instances, scammers used compromised or spoofed social media accounts to ask for personal details like Internet banking account details, mobile numbers or one-time passwords.

Fraudsters got away with at least $1 million, by making fraudulent transactions from their victims' bank accounts and mobile wallets. The largest sum cheated in a single case was $302,000, said the police.

Loan scams have also continued to grow, with the number of cases rising to 421 in the January to March period this year, up about 50 per cent from 281 in the same period last year.

Victims were cheated of at least $1.6 million through such fake loan schemes, and the largest amount cheated in a single case was $92,000.

In the same statement, the police also warned of a rise in bank phishing scams and Internet love scams.

The latest numbers show that scammers cheated 374 victims out of at least $1.6 million between January and March this year, by posing as bank staff and tricking them into revealing their Internet banking details.

 
 

This is a sharp increase from the 30 cases reported last year in the same period, which cost victims some $69,000 in total.

Online "Romeos" have also stepped up their efforts this year, with 175 victims losing some $6.6 million to their Internet partners in the first three months of the year.

This is up from the 131 cases reported last year in the same period, which saw victims losing some $7.1 million.

The police warned the public not to divulge personal information to others, and to pay for items only after they have received them.

Most of the cases involved overseas scammers, but 751 people in Singapore were investigated in connection with them, the police said.

"The majority of scams are perpetrated from overseas, and it is nearly impossible to recover monies once they are transferred out of Singapore," added the police.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2020, with the headline '$41.3m lost to scammers in first quarter'. Print Edition | Subscribe