SINGAPORE: There has been an increase in the number of investment scams reported in Singapore, doubling from about 200 to more than 400 cases annually from 2015 to 2017, due to the emergence of unregulated online platforms.
Thirty people have been charged by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) since 2015 for their roles in 14 of such scams.
These figures were revealed by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Aug 6) in a written reply to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Ong Teng Koon.
On why there is a comparatively lower number of successfully prosecuted cases to the police reports made, Mr Shanmugam said that a significant proportion of investment frauds are committed remotely by syndicates operating in foreign countries.
Alleged investment assets, such as distressed properties and agricultural products like seaweed farms, are also located overseas, making it difficult for the police to track down conclusively.
"Also, one investment scam may have multiple victims, resulting in many police reports. Some losses alleged in reports are not due to scams, but the ups and downs of the market," said Mr Shanmugam.
Members of the public usually come across these unregulated online trading platforms, which allow trades across a wide range of products, through online advertisements, emails, as well as unsolicited phone calls and messages.
Operators are usually based outside of Singapore and payments are made directly to overseas bank accounts.
In a joint statement issued in May, the CAD and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had urged the public to exercise “extreme caution” when dealing with these platforms after seeing a rise in the number of complaints over the past year.
A total of 142 reports from consumers who lost S$7.8 million from trading on unlicensed platforms were made last year, up from 40 reports in 2016.
As part of the ongoing review of the Penal Code, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law are reviewing the need to further strengthen Singapore’s legislative levers against fraud offences.
The police will also continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to crack down on overseas syndicates targeting Singaporeans.
A person who is convicted of a cheating offence under section 420 of the Penal Code may be jailed for up to 10 years.