More scam victims in first half of 2019, especially for loan and credit-for-sex scams

Among the top 10 scams were e-commerce scams, loan scams, credit-for-sex scams and Internet love scams.
Among the top 10 scams were e-commerce scams, loan scams, credit-for-sex scams and Internet love scams.ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE -  More people fell prey to scams in the first half of this year compared to the same period the previous year and police said this contributed to an overall increase by seven percent of crime from Jan to June.

E-commerce, loan, credit-for-sex and Internet love scams made up 80 per cent of the top 10 scam types reported during the period. The number of cases related to these four scam types increased by almost 60 per cent compared to the same period last year. 

The number of scams related to loans and credit-for-sex as well as the total amount cheated for both more than doubled in the first six months this year compared to the same period last year. 

Last year, there were 315 loan scams from Jan to June, resulting in losses of at least $670,000. This jumped to 692 cases and $2.2 million in losses in the same period this year, with the largest amount cheated in a single case totalling $82,120. 

Meanwhile, credit-for-sex scams also made a comeback, with the number of cases doubling from 209 in the first half of last year to 456 in the same period this year. 

Victims lost $1.1 million in the first half of this year, compared with $464,000 last year. The largest amount lost in a single case was $80,000. 

Police said iTunes cards and Alipay remained the most common platforms used for money transfers in credit-for-sex scams. 

 
 
 
 

E-commerce scams and Internet love scams also continued to mount. 

The number of cases for e-commerce scams rose from 1,013 to to 1,435 – the highest reported number of cases among all types of scams. The total amount of losses climbed from $870,000 to $1.2 million. The largest amount in a single case was $43,000.

About half of the cases took place on Carousell, a decline from the 74 per cent in the first half of the previous year.

Common transactions on the platform that turned out to be scams involved the sale of electronic items, tickets, hotel room bookings and vehicle rentals. 

“The drop could be attributed to the anti-scam initiatives that Carousell has worked closely with the police to push out on its platform,” said the Singapore Police Force in a statement on Friday (Aug 30). 

Instead, there was a rise in the number of e-commerce scams on other digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Shopee and Lazada. 

The number of Internet love scams also rose, from 288 in the first half of last year to 306 in the same period this year. Victims lost a total of $17.1 million this year, compared with $11.7 in the same period last year. The largest amount in a single case was about $2.4 million. 

Other common scams in Singapore were related to investment ruses, business e-mail impersonations,China officials impersonations, lucky draws, Facebook impersonations, and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority impersonations.

To bolster efforts to fight scams, the police have set up an Anti-Scam Centre under the Commercial Affairs Department to disrupt scammers’ operations and minimise victims’ losses. 

As scam crimes are largely conducted by foreign syndicates based overseas who leverage on digital platforms for their operations, police said they would continue to work with foreign law enforcement to crack down on these syndicates.

It would also continue to issue scam prevention advisories together with the National Crime Prevention Council. 

Police urged the public to exercise caution when making any online transaction, and exercise due diligence to protect themselves from falling victims to scams, as it is often difficult to recover monies that have already been paid or transferred to scammers. 

Apart from scams, the first half of the year also saw saw a slight increase of about 5 per cent in the number of molestation cases.

Statistics released by the police on Friday showed that from Jan to June this year, there were a total of 837 such cases, from 797 in the same period last year.

 
 

Cases on the public transport system went down but rose at bus interchanges as well as at LRT and MRT stations.

The number of molestation cases on public transport went down by 9.8 per cent and police said this could possibly be due to more public awareness and vigilance, stepped-up police patrols and the presence of advisories on buses and trains.

However, at bus interchanges and at LRT and MRT stations, the number of molestation cases saw an increase by about 26 per cent – from 30 cases in the first half of last year, to 38 cases in the same period this year. 

There was also an increase in the number of molestation cases in shopping malls, from 51 cases in the first half of last year to 67 cases in the same period this year. 

The police said it would step up patrols in shopping malls and work with stakeholders to deter such cases, but also reminded the public to stay vigilant while in crowded places. 

“Victims of molestation are advised to make a police report as soon as possible. Reporting such crimes early is crucial in helping the police identify and arrest perpetrators,” the police said.