In a press release on Thursday (23 August), Singapore Police Force stated that E-commerce scams, loan scams and “China officials” impersonation scams registered a significant increase. The number of such scams increased by 72.8% to 1,823 cases, from 1,055 cases in the same period last year.
Overall crime increased by 3.2% to 16,460 cases in the first six months of 2018, from 15,949 cases in the same period last year. This increase is largely attributed to a rise in e-commerce scams, loan scams and “China officials” impersonation scams. Outrage of modesty remains a key concern.
The police said that with pervasive Internet penetration and greater prevalence of smartphones in Singapore, more Singaporeans are going online.
This has likely contributed to the increase in online commercial crime cases, it noted.
The police stated that online crimes are particularly challenging to solve because of the borderless nature of the internet. A significant proportion of online commercial crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates that are hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. These criminals will continue to find ways to exploit and prey on the vulnerabilities of potential victims.
According to the police, internet love scams decreased for the first time in five years. There was an 18.6% decrease to 280 cases in the first half of 2018, from 344 cases in the same period last year.
The total amount cheated fell to around $12 million in the first half of 2018, from about $22 million in the same period last year.
The police said that this improvement can be attributed to the formation of the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force (TCTF) under the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), which investigates all scams that involve foreign crime syndicates.
It noted that since its formation on 1 October 2017, the TCTF has seized more than $1.1 million and closed more than 400 bank accounts belonging to money mules who were involved in internet love scams, which has disrupted the operation of such syndicates.
The Police also recalled the incident which happened in March 2018, when two OCBC staff alerted and helped a customer who had requested to remit $2,500 allegedly to pay a customs clearance fee for a parcel stuck at the Malaysian customs. The bank staff convinced the victim that it was a love scam and prevented any remittance of money.
Meanwhile, the police stated that there was an 18.2% decrease to 207 cases in the first half of 2018, from 253 cases in the same period last year. The total amount cheated fell to about $450,000 in the first half of 2018, from about $720,000 in the same period last year.
This improvement can be attributed to the good partnership with convenience stores such as 7-11 and Cheers which provide training to enable their staff to identify customers who may be victims of a scam, the police said.
According to the police, the staffs are able to help looking out for potential scam victims and advise them against buying iTunes cards, which is one mode of payment in such credit-forsex scams. 7-11 and Cheers also display scam advisories prominently in the premises to warn customers.
There was also a 58% increase to 1,277 cases in the first half of 2018, from 808 cases in the same period last year. The total amount cheated increased by 43.1% to about $930,000 in the first half of 2018, from about $650,000 in the same period last year.
According to the police, the largest amount cheated in a single case in the first half of 2018 was about $50,000, with 80% of the e-commerce scams took place on Carousell, with common transactions involving electronic items, and tickets to events and attractions, in particular, tickets to the Universal Studios Singapore.
E-commerce scams on online retail site Carousell increased by 136% to 1,020 in the first half of 2018, from 432 in the same period last year. 80% of all ecommerce scams took place on Carousell, and the total amount cheated was close to $550,000 in the first half of 2018.
The Police stated that it welcomed the introduction of CarouPay in June 2018 by Carousell. As an escrow payment system, buyers using CarouPay are protected from ecommerce scams as the payment will only be released to the sellers after the buyers have acknowledged the satisfactory receipt of the items purchased.
The police encourages the public to make use of such payment systems when they transact online to protect themselves against e-commerce scams.
Meanwhile, Outrage of Modesty (OM) cases increased by 21.5% to 832 cases in the first half of 2018, from 685 cases in the same period last year. In particular, OM cases at public entertainment nightspots and on public transport are key concerns 37% increase to 63 OM cases at public entertainment nightspots in the first half of 2018, from 46 in the same period last year and 43.8% increase to 105 in OM cases on public transport in the first half of 2018, from 73 in the same period last year
The Police stressed that it will continue to educate the public to minimise the chances of them becoming victims of commercial crimes. In particular, we will focus our public education efforts on the online community.