Crime numbers up with surge in online and phone scams

(From left) Mr Tan Puay Kern, vice-chairman, National Crime Prevention Council; Mr David Chew, director, Commercial Affairs Department; DC Florence Chua, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence); and SAC How Kwang Hwee, director
(From left) Mr Tan Puay Kern, vice-chairman, National Crime Prevention Council; Mr David Chew, director, Commercial Affairs Department; DC Florence Chua, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence); and SAC How Kwang Hwee, director, Operations Department, at a press conference to announce the annual crime brief. ST PHOTO: SAHIBA CHAWDHARY

False e-commerce deals, fake loans and Net love fraud cases make up 65% of top 10 scams

The number of crimes in Singapore rose marginally last year, and the main culprit is the surge in online and phone scams, such as those involving e-commerce, fake loans or lucky draw winnings.

The latest police statistics released yesterday show a 1.4 per cent increase to 33,134 crime cases, up from 32,668 the previous year.

The top 10 scams soared by 20.6 per cent to 5,796 last year.

Of these, false e-commerce transactions, fake loans and Internet love scams accounted for 65.2 per cent.

The eight scams that grew in number included fake loan schemes, lucky draw fraud and "Chinese officials" impersonation swindles.

Loan scams, in which victims are cheated into making deposits for "loans" that never materialise, saw the biggest jump - rising 151 per cent, from 396 to 994 cases.

Victims lost about $2 million altogether, more than triple that in 2017.

But victims of business e-mail impersonation scams suffered the biggest loss - $57.9 million in all.

As for Internet love scams, the number went down by 20.1 per cent to 660 cases, with losses also declining by 25.7 per cent to $27.5 million.

Similarly, the total amount lost by victims of the top 10 scams fell, by 7.1 per cent to $158 million.

The police attributed it partly to a Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force set up in October 2017.

It investigates transnational scams like Internet love scams, and has closed over 600 bank accounts and recovered over $1.4 million.

Mr David Chew, director of the Commercial Affairs Department, said crime has moved online along with the increase in tech-savvy consumers, and the Internet enables online criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims from all over the world.

 
 
 
 

"It is imperative that all of us be aware and keep ourselves updated on such threats on the Internet and exercise vigilance to protect ourselves from falling victim to scams," Mr Chew added.

Other key areas of concern include a spike in the number of criminals who made unauthorised transactions on the Internet, or had unauthorised access to another account or sensitive information.

This include hackers who use a victim's credit card for illegal purchases or people who sent phishing e-mails to get sensitive data.

The cases, which come under the Computer Misuse Act, totalled 1,204, a jump of 40.3 per cent.

Another worrying statistic is that of molestation, which went up by 11.9 per cent to 1,747 cases. Although the number of molestation cases on public transport dipped by 2.4 per cent to 202 cases, reports of molestation at nightspots soared by 34.3 per cent to 145.

There were also more unlicensed moneylending harassment cases, totalling 4,619 - a 21.1 per cent rise.

Most were carried out electronically by loan sharks using text messaging or e-mail. In all, there were 3,719 of these cases, a rise of 33.5 per cent. The rest involved property damage, which fell by 12.5 per cent to 900 cases.

The decline in theft and related crimes - by 8.6 per cent to 12,279 cases - helped to reduce the impact of the sharp rise in scams.

The theft-related crime that fell the most was bicycle stealing, which plunged by 42.3 per cent to 552 cases.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations and Intelligence) Florence Chua, who is also director of the Criminal Investigation Department, said: "We will continue with our multi-pronged approach of public education, leveraging technology to fight crime and sustaining our tough enforcement efforts to keep Singapore safe and secure."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2019, with the headline 'Crime numbers up with surge in online and phone scams'. Print Edition | Subscribe