SINGAPORE: The total number of reported crimes went up by 11.6 per cent to 18,121 cases in the first half of 2020, compared to 16,240 cases reported in the same period in 2019.
In a news release on Wednesday (Aug 26), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said the increase was primarily due to the rise in scam cases, with online scams seeing a significant increase as Singaporeans stayed home and carried out more online transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the other hand, physical crime dropped by nearly 2,000 cases across three broad crime classes - 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," said SPF.
S$82 MILLION CHEATED IN SCAMS
The police said that the total amount of money cheated for the top 10 scam types doubled to S$82 million in the first half of 2020, compared to S$41.6 million in the same period last year.
E-commerce scams, social media impersonation scams, loan scams and banking-related phishing scams are "of particular concern", said the authorities, with these types of scams making up 71 per cent of the top 10.
The total number of reported cases for these four types rose sharply by 163 per cent, said police.
E-commerce scams remain the top scam type - these cases increased by 73.8 per cent to 2,089 in the first half of 2020, from 1,202 in the same period in 2019.
The total amount cheated increased to S$5.4 million, up from S$1 million, with the largest sum cheated in a single case on an online marketplace reported to be S$175,000.
A total of 294 cases reported between January and June this year involved COVID-19 related items such as face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers, said police.
CYBER EXTORTION CASES
The number of cyber extortion cases more than tripled to 81 in the first half of 2020. In 2019, there were 25.
In these cases, criminals typically befriend victims online and subsequently coax them into performing compromising or indecent acts in front of the camera, said the authorities.
The criminals would then use the photos or video footage to extort money from victims.
The total amount of money lost by victims to cyber extortion cases was more than S$190,000, police said, adding that a single case saw a loss of about S$26,000.
The most common social media platforms where these incidents took place were Facebook, Tinder and MiChat.
READ: More than a quarter of Singapore residents suffered at least 1 cybersecurity lapse in past year: CSA survey
The authorities said that business operators as well as members of the community all have a key role in fighting crime.
"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," said police.
"Business operators such as banks, digital platform owners and telcos have a responsibility to prevent, deter and detect crimes committed through their platforms," police added, urging these parties to put in place anti-scam measures to keep their customers safe.
Family members and friends can also play a part by staying aware of these threats so they can prevent someone they know from falling victim, the authorities said.