Stop scams: Counting the cost of love, sex and money scams

Mutating and spreading, different types of scams have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, from love to work. The police are cracking down on offenders. What can you do to protect yourself?

Nearly $1 billion lost by scam victims in Singapore since 2016

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Cheow Sue-Ann runs through the latest scourge: job scams. Scammers stole close to $1 billion in 5.5 years from 2016.

The recent phishing saga involving customers of OCBC Bank has highlighted the epidemic of scams in Singapore, where victims have lost more than $965 million in just over 5½ years, checks by The Straits Times showed.

Scammers pocketed a record high $268.4 million in total in 2020, a figure Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam revealed last year in a written response to a parliamentary question on scams.

It was nearly triple the $89.7 million stolen in 2016.


Internet love scams in Singapore cost victims $33.1 million in 2020

Love scams, in which fraudsters steal hearts and empty bank accounts, have remained a persistent problem in Singapore in the past decade.

They are believed to have first surfaced in 2008, and victims are cheated by someone with whom they have formed an online relationship with.

There were 822 love scam cases in 2020, a more than 13-fold increase from the 62 cases in 2011.


Woman lost $17k she had saved for her wedding to a job scam

It took her two years to save up the $17,000 she needed for her wedding, and in just one day in September last year, she lost the money to a job scam.

Iris (not her real name), 34, had come across an advertisement on Facebook for a part-time marketing gig.

She thought she could make some extra money for her big day, which was scheduled for the end of 2021.


Man was 'hired' by recruiter, only to be cheated of $24k in three days in job scam

When he received a Telegram message on Dec 29 last year advertising a data optimisation job that required only two hours' effort a day, Mr Lee thought he could make easy money.

The job promised a daily salary of $80 to $120, a woman who gave her name as Mei Juan told him over text messages.

The 32-year-old administrative assistant, who declined to give his full name, thought that all he needed to do was click on buttons on a website to boost the data of selected items.


$6.5m lost in 6 months: More falling prey to job scams

The number of reported job scams during the Covid-19 pandemic has skyrocketed, warned the police, as more people are lured by the convenience of easy jobs promising high commissions.

The revelation comes even as people are still reeling from the shock of at least $8.5 million that nearly 470 OCBC Bank customers lost last year. Some had savings in the six figures wiped out.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times last week, Superintendent of Police Michelle Tay, the head of the Anti-Scam Centre, said that police are seeing a continued increase in the number of victims falling prey to job scams.


Five types of job scams in S'pore and how to avoid them

Five types of job scams have been observed by the Anti-Scam Centre since the second half of 2021.

Such scams have become a key concern for the police, who say victims are lured by the convenience of easy jobs which can purportedly be done remotely and the victims are promised high commissions.

ST takes a closer look at them.


Police's Anti-Scam Division busts 16 transnational syndicates

SPH Brightcove Video
Officers from the Anti-Scam Division share the numerous challenges faced in their line of work. It's not just about stopping the scammers. One elderly victim who had fallen for a scam was provided support and counselling by officers.

In just minutes, the money that victims transfer to a scammer will be quickly divided and dispersed to dozens of accounts in overseas banks.

As the scammers are also based outside Singapore in most instances, they could withdraw the cash within hours, making recovery challenging.

"Once the money is out of Singapore, it will be very difficult for the police to recover the funds," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap, assistant director of the Commercial Affairs Department's Anti-Scam Division.


Some victims refuse to believe they have been scammed, think police officers are the bad guys

Living alone, and without friends and family to support her, a woman in her 80s transferred her entire life savings of about $450,000 to scammers impersonating officials from China.

She believed them so much that when officers from the Anti-Scam Division (ASD) approached her in person, she thought they were the scammers.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Felicia Seow, who is with the ASD, recalled how it took much time and persuasion for the victim to finally come around.


Scam scourge: How can we fight it?

When you hear the four-letter word "scam", what comes to mind?

People being cheated of their money buying something they would never get.

People getting hurt as well as cheated when they realise the person they've been professing their love for and sending money to is nothing but a fraud.


Covid-19 pandemic a trigger for bank scam epidemic

The world has been grappling with bank scams for years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an explosion in such crimes.

Both the frequency and the size of frauds have multiplied, wiping out bank accounts of online banking novices as well as the tech-savvy. Victims have included celebrities and financial experts.

As more people use mobile wallets and digital banking apps in Asia, they are also unwittingly becoming vulnerable to monetary and data theft.


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