Singapore scam victims lose over S$660 million in 2022, with young adults most vulnerable

Singapore scam victims lose over S$660 million in 2022, with young adults most vulnerable

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans lost a total of $660.7 million to scams in 2022, an increase from $632 million in 2021, the police have reported. This brings the total losses from scams over the past two years to almost $1.3 billion.

Contrary to popular belief, more than 53% of scam victims were aged between 20 and 39, according to the statistics released by the Singapore Police Force on Thursday (16 Feb).

There were 31,728 scam cases reported in 2022, up by 32.6% from 23,933 cases in 2021. Phishing scams were the most common in 2022 with 7,097 cases, a 41.3% increase from the 5,023 cases in 2021.

“Scams have risen in numbers and have overtaken many other physical crime types to form a significant proportion of overall crime,” said Brenda Ong, assistant director of the police public communications division, as she highlighted the importance of a separate briefing on scams.

In fact, the elderly only accounted for 8.8% of scam victims in 2022, with most of them falling for phishing scams. Young adults are now often targeted on social media, messaging platforms, and online shopping platforms.

“The people who are more connected in the digital (world), the people who deal with it day in and day out and are comfortable with clicking on links – they are all vulnerable,” said David Chew, the Commercial Affairs Department director.

Victims aged 20 to 29 fell prey to job scams, while those between 30 and 39 lost money to e-commerce scams. Victims of investment scams lost the highest amount of $198.3 million among all scam types in 2022.

The police said most online scams were perpetrated by scammers based outside Singapore, and it is difficult to investigate and prosecute such cases. However, 13 scam syndicates were busted in 2022 after collaboration between the Singapore Police Force and overseas law enforcement agencies, leading to the arrest of more than 70 individuals responsible for over 280 scam cases.

To combat the scam scourge, an anti-scam campaign was launched by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) on Jan 18. NCPC vice-chairman Tan Puay Kern urged the public to “ACT” against scams, which outlines how people can Add security features, Check for signs, and Tell the authorities and others about scams.

The public was also advised to find out about the latest scam trends and share them with friends and family, look out for scam signs before responding, and report to the police immediately if they have been scammed.

“The biggest threat to turning awareness into action is the whole idea of invincibility. When we interview scam victims, many of them say, ‘I am the last person who I thought would get scammed.’ Look at the types of people who get scammed. We all think it is the old, the young, and the naive. But lawyers, doctors, and professors (have fallen prey to scams). No one is immune to scams,” Chew said. “The thought that ‘it will not happen to me’ – that is the greatest challenge.”

In addition to job scams, e-commerce scams, and investment scams, love scams were also prevalent in 2022, with 1,152 cases reported. Victims of love scams lost a total of $33.3 million, with an average loss of $28,945 per victim.

The police stated that love scammers would establish an online relationship with the victim, gain their trust and affection, and then request money from them. These scammers often claim to have run into financial difficulties, with some even promising marriage in exchange for the victim’s financial assistance.

“The nature of love scams is such that victims may be too emotionally invested in the relationship to spot the warning signs,” said Ong. “We urge the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious requests for money or information to the police immediately.”

As part of the 13 scam syndicates busted in 2022, two were linked to Internet love scams. The police highlighted the importance of cooperation from overseas law enforcement agencies in tracking down these scammers and urged the public to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity.

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