SINGAPORE: Scams cases for the first eight months of this year have doubled, compared to the number of scam cases reported in the same period last year, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Tan on Tuesday (Oct 6).
There were 10,402 cases reported from January to August this year, said Mr Tan, compared to 5,229 cases reported in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, the amount lost rose by nearly 72 per cent, from S$92 million in the first eight months of 2019 to S$157 million in the first eight months of this year.
“The police started to track the number and types of scams from 2016, when it started to become a crime of concern,” said Mr Tan.
Since then, the number of reported scams has increased. There were 9,545 reported cases of scams in 2019, a 77 per cent increase from 5,383 cases in 2016.
The total amount of money lost has also gone up since 2016. Victims reported S$89.7 million lost in 2016, compared to S$170.8 million in 2019.
Mr Tan added, in an answer to a supplementary question, that the most common scam crimes are e-commerce scams, followed by social media impersonation scams and loan scams.
Mr Tan was responding to a Parliamentary question by West Coast GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Ang Wei Neng on the trend of scam crimes in the past 10 years, and the police’s strategy to reduce such crimes.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has adopted a “multi-pronged” approach to tackle scams, said Mr Tan, adding that one such method is by strengthening enforcement.
The police have set up specialised units to “disrupt” scammers’ operations, including the E-commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team. Since its formation in Nov 2018, the team has arrested 101 e-commerce scammers and solved about 2,000 e-commerce scams.
In July last year, the police set up the Anti-Scam Centre, a “nerve centre” for scam investigations. In its first year, the centre froze more than 6,100 bank accounts and recovered more than S$21.2 million.
The police also stepped up collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies, setting up the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force in Oct 2017 to investigate crimes like the China officials impersonation Scams, Internet love scams and credit-for-sex scams.
The task force has seen “good results”, said Mr Tan, adding that it has conducted 12 joint operations with its international counterparts, arresting more than 120 suspects.
The police also train frontline staff at banks, remittance agencies and convenience stores to spot possible scam victims. In 2019, the police commended 108 people from the community for preventing 91 cases of scams involving S$5 million.
Earlier this year, the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams was set up to coordinate a “whole-of-government effort” to combat scams.
The committee is working on improving authorities’ ability to detect and disrupt scams, secure the digital space, create a better loss recovery and remediation experience for scam victims, and improve public education and outreach on scams.
The police and the National Crime Prevention Council have also been issuing advisories through various media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, to improve public awareness. They launched an anti-scam public education campaign, “Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes”, in Aug 2020, to share real-life scam examples to educate the public on the tell-tale signs of various scams.
ON Sembawang GRC MP Poh Li San’s question on how the ministry is protecting seniors, Mr Tan said that the police and MHA conduct targeted public education for this “vulnerable group”.
“For the seniors group, other than, of course, the mainstream media, we also work very closely with the community networks, through their events, through their house visits, including the Agency for Integrated Care, to make sure that some of these messages are communicated to them.”
He added that the police and MHA work closely with the Infocomm Media Development Authority to teach seniors to be more mindful of risks through the Seniors Go Digital programme, which aims to raise the digital skills of seniors.