SINGAPORE - Fake Romeos, watch out.
The police have set up a task force to tackle crimes such as online love scams and have already seen encouraging results, with a drop in the number of cases reported.
The task force, which was started last October, investigates scams that involve international transactions. For now, its focus is on Internet love scams, which have become a worry, with about 30 per cent more cases last year than in 2016.
The task force has already led to a steady decline of Internet love scams reported, said a police spokesman on Monday (March 26).
Last month, the police received 41 reports of such scams, a drop from the 102 in September.
Between October and February, the task force investigated more than 200 money mules and seized at least $1 million from about 300 accounts.
It also worked with Royal Malaysia Police between December and January, resulting in the arrests of 11 suspects believed to be involved in 10 cases of online love scams in both Singapore and Malaysia.
The police spokesman said the task force's main strategy is to "freeze local beneficiary accounts swiftly in reported Internet love scam cases to deny foreign scam syndicates of their criminal benefits".
Victims may be duped into falling in love with conmen through social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Tinder, said the spokesman.
The conmen may go on to tell their victims that they have run into financial problems and need money urgently. Some fraudsters also guilt-trip their victims, making it harder for them to reject their requests, said the spokesman.
Once victims have no more money, they may be employed as money mules, with fraudsters using their accounts to transfer funds, the spokesman added.
Last year, there were 825 reported cases of Internet love scams, involving a record $37 million. One victim lost almost $6 million. The total amount lost through such cases was a 50 per cent increase from the $24 million reported in 2016.
By April, the task force will have 12 investigators, up from six. It will also start to look into impersonation scams.