SINGAPORE: The total number of reported crimes increased by 1.4 per cent in 2018 to 33,134 cases, compared to 32,668 cases the year before, the police said on Wednesday (Feb 20).
E-commerce, loan, credit-for-sex and China officials impersonation scams, "remain a concern", with the total number of scam cases increasing by 20.6 per cent in 2018, from 4,805 instances to 5,796 last year.
Loan scams increased by 151 per cent, from 396 cases in 2017 to 994 cases in 2018. The total amount cheated in loan scams increased by 253.4 per cent, from about S$566,000 in 2017 to about S$2 million in 2018. The largest amount cheated in a single case was close to S$90,000.
The total amount cheated in e-commerce scams increased to about S$1.9 million in 2018, up from S$1.4 million the year before. The largest amount cheated in a single case in 2018 was close to S$69,000.
Seventy per cent of the e-commerce scams took place on the online marketplace Carousell, police said, and involved electronic products and tickets to attractions like Universal Studios Singapore.
Credit-for-sex scams increased by 28.7 per cent, rising to 533 cases in 2018 from 414 cases in 2017. The total amount cheated increased by 50 per cent to about S$1.5 million in 2018. The largest amount cheated in a single case last year was close to S$100,000.
China officials impersonation scams increased by 60.6 per cent to 302 cases in 2018, up from 188 cases in 2017. The total amount cheated decreased by 0.8 per cent to about S$12.7 million in 2018. The largest amount cheated in a single case in 2018 was close to S$1.7 million.
"A significant proportion of online crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates that continue to find ways to prey on victims," the police said.
"The police will continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to crack down on such foreign syndicates targeting Singaporeans."
UNLICENSED MONEYLENDING HARASSMENT
The total number of cases related to unlicensed moneylending (UML) increased by 21.1 per cent to 4,619 cases in 2018, up from 3,814 cases the year before.
Harassment cases by electronic means increased by 33.5 per cent to 3,719 cases last year, compared to 2,785 in 2017. These accounted for the majority of UML-related harassment cases in 2018.
Harassment cases involving damage to property decreased by 12.5 per cent to 900 cases in 2018, down from 1,029 cases in 2017.
"The police's enforcement efforts to disrupt UML syndicate operations, strong partnership with the community and the introduction of additional police cameras in neighbourhoods forced UML harassers to shift to non-damage and non-confrontational tactics, such as placing harassment notes in letterboxes," said the police.
More victims are being harassed via SMS and social media platforms due to the increase in new communication platforms and smartphones. This makes it easier for UML harassers to target larger groups of people, police said.
There has also been a rise in cases involving foreign workers borrowing money from unlicensed moneylenders.
"The police have engaged maid employment agencies and businesses to educate foreign workers against borrowing from loansharks and to warn them of the severe consequences of getting involved in UML activities," police said.
Cases under the Computer Misuse Act include unauthorised access or transaction of an individual's online accounts, unauthorised purchases using credit or debit cards, and phishing emails that obtained sensitive personal information such as passwords and credit card details.
In 2018, there was a 40.3 per cent increase in such cases, from 858 cases in 2017 to 1,204 cases last year.
"The police would like to remind members of the public to safeguard their personal particulars and online credentials and to be wary of phishing emails or websites," the statement read.
"Credit and debit card holders are advised to opt for SMS one-time password (OTP) verification for charges to their cards, as well as a notification for any charges incurred."
OVERALL CRIME RATE
The overall crime rate went up in 2018, said the police, with 588 cases per 100,000 population compared to the 582 cases in 2017.
"The increase in the number of reported crimes was largely due to a rise in scam cases," police said.
Notably, theft and related crimes decreased by 8.6 per cent to 12,279 cases in 2018 from 13,431 cases in 2017. This includes shop thefts, theft-in-dwelling cases, motor vehicle and related theft cases and bicycle thefts.
"The decline in theft cases can be largely attributed to the Police's continued crime prevention efforts, including increased Police presence at malls and other crowded places," said the police.