More than S$330 million lost to scammers in first half of 2023; cases continue to rise
Fraudsters siphoned S$334.5 million from their victims from January to June this year, with young adults the most likely to be cheated in scams, said the Singapore Police Force.
SINGAPORE: Scam victims in Singapore lost slightly less money in the first half of 2023 as compared to the same period last year, even as the number of scam cases increased by 64.5 per cent, according to data released by the police on Wednesday (Sep 13).
From January to June this year, the total amount that victims reported to have been cheated – S$334.5 million (US$245.7 million) – dropped by 2.2 per cent from S$342.1 million in the same period in 2022.
In line with that, more than half of the cases – 55 per cent – resulted in losses less than or equal to S$2,000.
The overall number of scam cases increased from 13,576 in the first half of last year to 22,339 in the first half of this year.
Young adults aged 20 to 39 were the most likely to be cheated in scams, making up more than half of the total number of victims. They mostly fell prey to e-commerce scams, job scams and phishing scams.
The top five methods used by scammers to approach victims were through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, social media, phone calls, online shopping platforms and SMSes.
In releasing its latest mid-year statistics for scam and cybercrime cases, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said it has been working closely with government agencies and private sector stakeholders to “strengthen scam intervention measures to minimise victims’ losses”.
The total number of scam and cybercrime cases rose by almost 70 per cent to 24,525 cases in the first half of 2023, from 14,481 cases in the same period in 2022.
The police also highlighted malware-enabled scams involving Android device users that have become more prevalent in recent months.
More than 750 such cases were reported in the first half of 2023, with total losses amounting to at least S$10 million. Eleven of these cases involved unauthorised withdrawals of Central Provident Fund savings, with a net loss of about S$130,000.
TOP TYPES OF SCAMS
The top five scam types in Singapore – making up 83.8 per cent of all cases reported in the first half of this year – were job scams, e-commerce scams, fake friend call scams, phishing scams and investment scams.
The number of cases for all these scam types rose across the board in comparison to the first half of 2022. The amounts cheated in three of the top five scam types also rose.
Among the top 10 scam types, those involving the impersonation of government officials resulted in the highest average losses – S$116,000. This was followed by investment scams at about S$60,000.
These two scam types involve deception over a period of time with the use of “complex social engineering and deception methods”, said the police.
E-commerce scams and phishing scams had lower average losses, at about S$1,600 and S$2,400 respectively.
Scammers would pose as government officials such as those from SPF or the Ministry of Manpower in a phishing scam variant.
They would approach victims through calls – mostly WhatsApp video or voice calls – and convince them to provide their banking credentials, one-time passwords and/or personal details. They would then use these details to siphon funds from the victims’ bank accounts.
EFFORTS TO FIGHT SCAMS AND CYBERCRIMES
The police also gave updates on its efforts to combat scams and cybercrime.
Its Anti-Scam Command, which was set up in March 2022, froze more than 9,000 bank accounts and recovered about S$50.8 million of scam proceeds in the first half of 2023.
Staff from six banks as well as the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) were also deployed to work at the Anti-Scam Command in order to speed up responses to scam cases and flag unusual activities in Singpass accounts.
In the first half of 2023, the Anti-Scam Command worked with these bank staff to identify more than 800 unsuspecting victims, preventing potential losses of more than S$5 million.
During that period, the Anti-Scam Command – along with Scam Strike Teams across the seven police land divisions – conducted 12 islandwide anti-scam enforcement operations. This led to more than 4,700 money mules and scammers being investigated.
New laws that were passed in May to give the police more powers to act more effectively against money mules, as well as those who sell their Singpass details to scammers, will take effect at the end of this year, added SPF.
Separately, more than 3,700 mobile lines and more than 10,300 WhatsApp lines were submitted for termination. These lines were believed to have been used in scams. Additionally, more than 1,500 online monikers and advertisements involved in suspected scams were removed.
From March to May this year, the police carried out two islandwide operations targeting eight mobile phone shops as well as 16 mobile phone shop owners and assistants.
They had allegedly helped scammers to exploit registered prepaid SIM cards as an anonymous channel of communication for illicit activities such as scams and unlicensed moneylending.
More than 110 phone subscribers were also investigated for their suspected involvement in fraudulently registering SIM cards.
WORKING WITH FOREIGN COUNTERPARTS
The police also revealed that nine scam syndicates were taken down in the first half of 2023 as a result of collaboration between SPF and overseas law enforcement agencies.
These comprised four fake friend call scam syndicates, three job scam syndicates, and one syndicate each that perpetrated phishing scams and internet love scams.
More than 42 people based abroad – who were responsible for more than 580 cases in Singapore – were arrested.
They included three Malaysians, aged between 18 and 27, who were extradited to Singapore in March for their suspected involvement in fake friend call scams targeting Singaporeans. They have been charged in court with cheating offences.
Preliminary investigations showed that the men began their scam operations earlier this year, and are believed to be involved in more than 40 reports with total losses of more than S$250,000.
In June, SPF also extradited three Singaporeans from Malaysia for their suspected involvement in laundering scam proceeds linked to more than 50 cases reported in Singapore. The losses amounted to more than S$2.9 million.