On the heels of the spike in scam-related crimes over the first half of this year, the Singapore Police Force has teamed up with three major banks in the Republic to curb the proliferation of scam operations.
The Straits Times reported today (30 Aug) that the Police Force’s Anti-Scam Centre, which serves to disrupt the transfer of money in suspected scam operations, has received around 1,000 police reports regarding e-commerce scams and loans scams in particular since its establishment in mid-Jun this year.
Following the Centre’s collaboration with DBS, OCBC and United Overseas Bank, 815 bank accounts linked to scam operations have been frozen, and freezing such accounts took a mere several days.
35 per cent, or around S$850,000, of the $2.4 million in losses in total were recovered as a result of the initiative, which was not previously feasible, considering it used to take around two weeks to freeze a bank account, according to assistant director of the Specialised Commercial Crime Division in the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) Assistant Commissioner Aileen Yap.
Touching on the rationale behind setting up a specialised centre for scam-related crimes, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Lim Hao Jun said on Mon (26 Aug) that while previous Police initiatives in curbing the spread of scams were successful, the “constantly evolving” nature of scams can make it difficult for the Police to navigate the problem using previous methods.
DSP Lim, who is serving under the Criminal Investigation Department’s Operation, Investigation Policy and Training Division, said that the Police Force has to “continually rethink on how to deal with this problem” as a result of the rapidly shifting types of scams, particularly those involving technology such as e-commerce and internet love scams.
Scam cases make up majority of increased crime rate in first half of this year: Police
The rise in scam-related cases contributed largely to the increased crime rate in Singapore in the first half of this year, according to Police.
Police revealed on Fri (30 Aug) that the overall crime rate rose by 7 per cent in the first half of 2019 from the same period last year, namely from 15,649 cases in 2018 to 16,745 cases in 2019.
“If cases related to the top ten types of scams are excluded, the increase in the total number of reported crimes for the first half of 2019 from the same period in 2018 was just 0.5% (from 13,089 to 13,154),” said Police, a stark contrast from the statistics that took scams into account.
E-commerce scams, loan scams, credit-for-sex scams and internet love scams make up the most crucial four out of the top 10 scams, with the four types of scams making up an overwhelming majority of 80 per cent of scam-related reports in the first half of 2019, as seen in the table below.
Police added that the total number of reported cases for the aforementioned four types of scams alone also increased significantly by almost 60 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2018.
E-commerce scams – which proliferate on online “marketplace” platforms such as Carousell, Shopee and Lazada, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram – topped the list of scams, with an increase of 42 per cent in reported cases in the first half of 2019, and a total of S$1.2 million cheated from victims. The largest amount of money cheated in a single case in the first half of 2019 was S$43,000.