SINGAPORE: The Government will set up an Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams to “formulate and execute” a comprehensive strategy to combat such crimes, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling on Monday (Mar 2).
Involving the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the Committee’s strategy will include deterring potential perpetrators and limiting their ability to conduct operations in Singapore.
The Committee will also look at mitigating losses incurred by victims, and ensuring that the public is vigilant and wary of scams.
“But even as the government steps up efforts to combat scams, we cannot do it alone. Businesses have a role to play too, especially those such as e-commerce platforms and banks, which can also be exploited by scammers, causing monetary losses to customers,” said Ms Sun in MHA’s Committee of Supply debate.
She added that MHA will work closely with such businesses to put in place upstream measures to limit the ability of criminals to do harm.
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Ms Sun noted that technology has changed the way criminals operate, adding that online scams are "an area of concern". Social media platforms also offer criminals “a new means” of targeting victims. There was a rise in police reports of scams in Singapore in 2019, especially those related to e-commerce, loans and credit-for-sex, she added.
Scam cases surged 54 per cent, accounting for 27 per cent of overall crime in 2019, statistics released by the police showed in January.
A total of 9,502 scams were reported in 2019, compared to 6,189 cases the previous year.
“Foreign syndicates use the Internet and spoofing technology to obscure their identity and conduct illegal activities. Our enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments,” she said.
However, the “best defence” against scams is “a discerning public”, said Ms Sun.
“Criminals are looking to exploit people’s feelings for loved ones or other personal motivations.
“We urge the public to be sceptical of incredulous promises, to utilise escrow accounts provided by the platforms for transaction where possible, and to check with the authorities when approached by dubious people purporting to be government officials.”