Overall crime up 1.4% last year, fuelled by 20% surge in scams

(From left) Mr Tan Puay Kern, vice-chairman, National Crime Prevention Council; Mr David Chew, director, Commercial Affairs Department; DC Florence Chua, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence); and SAC How Kwang Hwee, director
(From left) Mr Tan Puay Kern, vice-chairman, National Crime Prevention Council; Mr David Chew, director, Commercial Affairs Department; DC Florence Chua, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence); and SAC How Kwang Hwee, director, Operations Department, at a press conference to announce the annual crime brief. ST PHOTO: SAHIBA CHAWDHARY

SINGAPORE - Overall crime went up by 1.4 per cent last year, buoyed by a surge in scams taking place online or over the phone, such as those involving e-commerce, fake loans or lucky draw winnings.

Latest statistics released by the police on Wednesday (Feb 20) showed that there were 33,134 crimes last year, up from 32,668 cases in 2017.

The total number of the top 10 most popular scams rose by 20.6 per cent to 5,796 last year. False e-commerce transactions, fake loans and Internet love romeos accounted for a combined 65.2 per cent of this total.

Increases were seen in eight of them, such as fake loans, lucky draws, and Chinese officials impersonation.

Among them, loan scams - in which victims are cheated into making deposits for a "loan" which never materialises - registered the biggest jump of 151 per cent from 396 cases to 994 cases.

The police attributed the 20.1 per cent dip in Internet love scams last year in part to a Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force set up in October 2017.

The taskforce investigates transnational scams such as Internet love scams, and has since closed over 600 bank accounts and recovered more than $1.4 million.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence) Florence Chua, who is concurrent director of the Criminal Investigation Department, said the police will continue to work with its partners, the community and business stakeholders in the fight against crime.

"We will continue with our multi-pronged approach of public education, leveraging technology to fight crime and sustaining our tough enforcement efforts to keep Singapore safe and secure," she added.

Apart from scams, other key areas of concern included a spike in the number of online-savvy criminals who made unauthorised transactions online or had unauthorised access to another account, such as by misusing a victim's credit or debit card details.

 
 
 
 

Such cases, which come under the Computer Misuse Act, rose by 40.3 per cent to a total of 1,204 cases last year.

Also of concern were molestation cases, which went up by 11.9 per cent to 1,747 cases last year.

The number of molestations on public transport dipped by 2.4 per cent to 202 cases, but reports of molestations at nightspots rose by 34.3 per cent to 145 cases last year.

There were also more unlicensed moneylending cases last year.

This was largely due to a jump in the number of loan sharks turning to electronic means such as text messaging or e-mail to harass their borrowers, as the number of harassment cases involving property damage fell.

However, police statistics also showed that theft and related crimes fell by 8.6 per cent to 12,279 cases last year, buffering the spike in scams and other online crime methods.