SINGAPORE: The number of e-commerce scams on online marketplace app Carousell jumped a whopping 136 per cent in the first half of this year, the Singapore police said on Thursday (Aug 23).
A total of 1,020 cases of people being scammed on Carousell were reported between January and June, up from 432 in the same period last year.
Eighty per cent of all e-commerce scams reported took place on Carousell, with common transactions involving electronic items, as well as tickets to events and attractions, particularly Universal Studios Singapore.
Overall, e-commerce scam cases jumped 58 per cent from 808 cases last year to 1,277 cases in the first half of this year. The total amount cheated also went up by 43.1 per cent, from S$650,000 to S$930,000. The largest amount cheated in a single case was about S$50,000.
READ: S$99 million lost to scams in 2017, police say
Overall crime increased by 3.2 per cent in the first six months of the year due to the rise of such e-commerce cases, as well as scams to do with loans and the impersonation of China officials, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
The number of criminal cases went up to 16,460 from 15,949. During this time, the number of e-commerce, loan and China officials impersonation scams also went up by 72.8 per cent, from 1,055 to 1,823 cases.
The SPF attributed the rise in online crime to pervasive Internet penetration and the greater prevalence of smartphones among Singaporeans.
"Online crimes are particularly challenging to solve because of the borderless nature of the Internet," said SPF. "A significant proportion of online commercial crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates that are hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. These criminals will continue to find ways to exploit and prey on the vulnerabilities of potential victims."
Police said they will continue to educate the public on such scams, with a particular focus on the online community.
SPF also said that it "welcomed" Carousell's introduction of its escrow payment system, CarouPay, in June this year.
"Buyers using CarouPay are protected from e-commerce scams as the payment will only be released to the sellers after the buyers have acknowledged the satisfactory receipt of the items purchased," it said, adding that customers are encouraged to make use of such systems when they transact online.
INTERNET LOVE SCAMS DOWN FOR FIRST TIME IN 5 YEARS
For the first time in five years, the number of Internet love scam cases fell, registering an 18.6 per cent drop from 344 to 280 cases.
The total amount cheated fell to around S$12 million, compared to S$22 million in the same period last year.
SPF attributed the decline to the formation of a task force to investigate scams involving foreign crime syndicates.
READ: "All I wanted was to help save a life": Getting swindled in Singapore an expensive lesson for some
"Since its formation on Oct 1, 2017, the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force has seized more than S$1.1 million and closed more than 400 bank accounts belonging to money mules who were involved in Internet love scams," said SPF.
The police also said they are working with remittance agencies and banks to train their frontline staff to detect customers who may be victims of a scam.
"The heightened awareness and vigilance in the trained staff have resulted in several successful interventions," said police.
READ: Woman arrested for allegedly cheating victims of more than S$200,000 in love scams
In March this year, an OCBC customer requested to remit S$2,500 to pay a customs clearance fee for a parcel stuck at the Malaysian customs. Two of the bank's employees convinced the victim that it was a love scam and stopped the remittance.
OUTRAGE OF MODESTY AT NIGHTSPOTS, PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The number of outrage of modesty cases went up 21.5 per cent from 685 cases to 832 cases, with police highlighting instances at public entertainment nightspots and public transport as "key concerns".
There were 63 cases of outrage of modesty at nightspots in the first half of this year, compared to 46 in the same period last year. There was also a 43.8 per cent rise in outrage of modesty cases on public transport, from 73 to 105.
"The police will continue to educate the public to be vigilant against outrage of modesty, and advise victims of molestation to make a police report as soon as possible. Reporting the crime early is crucial to help the police identify and arrest the perpetrator," SPF said.
The police will work with public entertainment outlets in Clarke Quay on a Smart Clubbing Campaign later this year. The campaign will focus on creating awareness of crimes commonly committed against nightspot patrons, crime prevention measures and how to respond should one witness or is a victim of a crime.
There will be glow-in-the-dark crime advisories on display, as well as "smart clubber" crime prevention videos screened to remind patrons to remain vigilant against crime, authorities added.
Meanwhile, Citizens on Patrol (COP) volunteers with the Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre have expanded their patrol to include Queenstown MRT station and will be disseminating crime prevention messages.
Police said the patrol initiative will be extended to other COP groups.