Rise in online scams and outrage of modesty cases in first half of 2017

E-commerce cheating scams dipped to 900 cases from 1,006 cases last year, with the largest amount cheated in a single case at $60,700 in the first half of this year.
E-commerce cheating scams dipped to 900 cases from 1,006 cases last year, with the largest amount cheated in a single case at $60,700 in the first half of this year. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Overall crime dipped slightly in the first half of the year, but scams and molestation cases have risen, according to police data.

Internet love scams and e-mail impersonation scams both grew by more than 25 per cent from the same period last year.

There were 349 cases of Internet love scams from January to June, costing victims some $22.1 million in total.

This is an increase from the $11.2 million lost in the same period last year, from 277 reported cases.

Such love scams have been on the rise year on year, and they "remain a great cause (for) concern", said the police on Monday (Aug 28), in announcing Singapore's mid-year crime figures.

Internet love scams hit an all-time high last year with 636 cases, up from 385 in 2015.

 

In the first half of this year, the largest amount cheated in a single case was close to $6 million.

"Many people are still trusting and transferring money to strangers whom they have befriended online, in the quest to find love," said the police.

In such scams, victims are befriended online, typically by an attractive foreigner who gains their trust. The scammers ask for money for various reasons, including as proof of victims' love. They then disappear after the money is transferred.

The police added that online crimes are "particularly challenging to solve because of the borderless nature of the Internet".

The police also noted that a "significant proportion" of online commercial crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates, adding that they will continue to focus crime prevention efforts on the online community.

E-mail impersonation scams are on the rise as well, with 160 reported cases in the first half of the year, up from 124 in the same period last year.

Such scams generally affect companies that correspond with other firms via e-mail regarding their transactions and fund transfers.

Often, victims do not realise that the e-mail account of the company they have been liaising with has been hacked, or spoofed. They then proceed to transfer money to the bank account provided by scammers.

The total amount cheated in such scams grew from $17.4 million in the first half of last year to $21.9 million in the same period this year.

The largest amount cheated in a single case in the first half of this year was close to $4 million.

Outrage of modesty cases also increased 9.5 per cent from 655 in the first half of 2016 to 717 in the first half of this year, with the number of incidents at entertainment night spots growing from 44 to 52 cases.

The police said they will continue to take a tough stance on outrage of modesty cases and urged the public to be vigilant and to report incidents as soon as possible.

Although commercial crimes dropped by 3.2 per cent to 4,169 cases in the first half of this year, from 4,308 cases in the same period last year, the number of e-commerce scams remains high, compared with other types of scams, added the police.

E-commerce cheating scams dipped to 900 cases from 1,006 cases last year, with the largest amount cheated in a single case at $60,700 in the first half of this year.

Theft and related crimes, as well as housebreaking cases, also decreased.

There were 6,831 cases of theft and related crimes in the first half of this year, down from 7,011 cases in the same period last year. In particular, thefts from persons fell by 14 per cent and thefts from motor vehicles dropped by 18.9 per cent.

The police said a possible reason for the decrease in motor vehicle-related thefts could be the use of in-vehicle cameras.

They "serve as strong deterrence by providing additional 'eyes' that capture neighbourhood crimes and provide crucial leads to aid police investigations". Currently, there are 7,283 residents taking part in the Vehicles On Watch scheme at 783 locations. The scheme was launched by the police in 2015 to tap in-vehicle cameras to deter and solve crimes, and to act as extra “eyes” in the community.