The country’s crime rate went up by 11.6 per cent in the first half of 2020, as compared to the same period in 2019.
It was stated in a news release published on Wednesday (26 August) that a total of 18,121 cases were reported in the first six months of this year, whereas only 16,240 cases were reported in the same time last year.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) pointed out that the increase was mainly due to the rise in scam cases in the country, with online scams seeing a notable increase as people stayed home and performed more online transaction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite witnessing a soar in online scams, SPF noted that physical crime has dropped by close to 2,000 cases across three broad crime classes, which are crimes against persons such as serious hurt, outrage of modesty and rioting, housebreaking and related crimes, as well as theft.
“If scam cases were excluded, the total number of reported crimes for the first half of 2020 would have decreased by 20.5 per cent to 10,151, from 12,770 in the same period in 2019,” SPF stated.
Additionally, the police also explained that the total amount of money cheated in the top 10 scam types doubled in the first half of 2020 as it stands at S$82 million, compared to S$41.6 million in the same period last year.
Examples of the types of scams that make up 71 per cent of the top 10 include e-commerce scams, social media impersonation scams, loan scams and banking-related phishing scams, the police said.
The authorities also noted that the total number of reported cases for these four types of scams soared sharply by 163 per cent, adding that they are “of particular concern”.
If that’s not all, the type of scam that tops the list is e-commerce scams as the cases increased by 73.8 per cent to 2,089 in the first six months of 2020, from 1,202 in the same period in 2019.
Besides that, the total sum cheated increased to S$5.4 million, a sharp spike from S$1 million, with the largest amount cheated in a single case on an online marketplace reported to be S$175,000.
Separately, 294 cases which were reported in the first half of this year involved COVID-19 related items like face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers, SPF stated.
Cyber extortion cases tripled
The authorities also revealed that the number of cyber extortion cases more than tripled to 81 between January and June this year. In 2019, only 25 cases were recorded.
The most common social media platforms where this crime happened are Facebook, Tinder and MiChat.
The SPF explained that the criminals usually befriend with their victims online and slowly coax them into performing compromising or indecent acts on camera. The criminals would then use the photos or video to extort money from the victims.
The police said that the total sum of money that victims have lost to cyber extortion cases reached to more than S$190,000, adding that one case saw a loss of roughly S$26,000.
“Criminals have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation to find new victims, by exploiting the public’s fear and sense of uncertainty. This is evident from the significant increase in online scam cases reported in the first half of 2020,” SPF said.
It continued, “Business operators such as banks, digital platform owners and telcos have a responsibility to prevent, deter and detect crimes committed through their platforms”, urging them to come up with anti-scam measures for the safety of their customers.
The authorities also pointed out that family members and friends can also help prevent the occurrence of such cases by being aware of these threats so they can prevent someone that they know from becoming a victim.