Molestation and scam incidents on the rise

Volunteers from Citizens On Patrol community programme distributing pamphlets on crime prevention at Queenstown MRT station last week. Molestation reports went up by 21.5 per cent. Police said such incidents at public entertainment nightspots and on
Volunteers from Citizens On Patrol community programme distributing pamphlets on crime prevention at Queenstown MRT station last week. Molestation reports went up by 21.5 per cent. Police said such incidents at public entertainment nightspots and on public transport are of particular concern.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

They fuel spike in overall crime with 16,460 cases reported in the first half of this year

More people in Singapore have fallen prey to molesters, especially on public transport and at public entertainment nightspots, as well as scammers in the first half of this year, fuelling a spike in overall crime.

Increasingly popular tricks include: fake loan schemes, fraudulent e-commerce sales, and the "Chinese official" ruse, where scammers claim to be officials from China to demand money from victims.

Overall, a total of 16,460 crimes were reported between January and June this year, up from 15,949 cases in the same period last year, according to mid-year crime statistics released by the police yesterday.

This is the first time since 2015 that crimes have gone up in the first half of the year.

The "Chinese official" impersonation scam was responsible for a more than 213 per cent jump. In some cases, victims were told they were implicated in money laundering cases and asked to provide bank account details over the phone for investigations. There were 182 such cases in the first half of this year, up from 58 cases in the same period last year. Victims were cheated of a total of about $6 million, more than triple the amount last year.

The rise in such cases is cause for concern, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly or young, said MP Desmond Choo, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law. "A lot of senior citizens could be affected, so I would encourage enforcement agencies to work with the grassroots to spread the message quickly," said Mr Choo.

There were 1,277 e-commerce cheating cases in the first half of this year, up from 808 cases in the same period last year, and victims were cheated of some $930,000.

 
 
 

About 80 per cent took place on popular online selling platform Carousell, said the police.

These cases are particularly challenging to solve, as the main perpetrators are foreign scam syndicates that can hide under the anonymity of the Internet, said Assistant Superintendent Stanley Qiu of the Bedok Police Division's commercial crime squad.

The syndicates recruit locals for their local bank account details, and then scam local buyers into buying an item off the platform before disappearing with the money, which is remitted to them by their local helpers, said ASP Qiu. Loan scams were up 92.6 per cent, from 189 to 364 cases, with the total amount cheated increasing by 192 per cent to about $730,000.

The number of molestation reports went up by 21.5 per cent to 832 cases, from 685.

Police said such incidents at public entertainment nightspots and on public transport are of particular concern. Molestation cases at nightclubs rose by 37 per cent over the same time period last year, while such cases on public transport increased by 43.8 per cent.

"The police are closely monitoring the increase in outrage of modesty cases. We will continue to step up our efforts to work closely with stakeholders and the community to prevent and deter such cases, especially in public entertainment nightspots and public transport networks," said Senior Assistant Commissioner How Kwang Hwee, who is director of the operations department. "Offenders will be dealt with severely in accordance with the law."

Meanwhile, the number of Internet love scam cases was down for the first time in five years. In the first half of the year, 280 cases were reported, down from 344 in the same time period last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2018, with the headline 'Molestation and scam incidents on the rise'. Print Edition | Subscribe