Scam victims lost $41.3 million in Q1; e-commerce and loan scams among most common

Covid-19 related scams made up one in four e-commerce scams. PHOTO: ST FILE

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

Fake loan schemes were another common tactic as scammers got away with at least $41.3 million in total between January and March this year.

The total amount lost has grown by 27.9 per cent compared with the figure in the same period last year, the police disclosed in a media release on Monday (May 4).

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 10-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 (OTP).

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 in popularity, with cases increasing by about 50 per cent to 421 from January to March this year, up 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.

The police also highlighted a loan scam tactic targeting bank customers, where victims received advertisements from "banks" like DBS, POSB, UOB and CIMB offering loans.

Banks and licensed moneylenders are not allowed to send out such loan advertisements, said the police.

In the same release, the police also warned of the rise of 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 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 it.

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

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