Victims in S'pore lost S$83.1m to scammers in first half of 2019, 40% more than same period last year

The number of police reports filed by scam victims was also up 40 per cent from the first half of last year.

Jeanette Tan| October 08, 02:27 PM

S$83.1 million.

That's the amount people in Singapore lost to scammers in the first half of this year — and that's only for the top 10 types of scams reported so far.

This figure was revealed by Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (Oct. 7), in response to a question on the topic filed by MP Melvin Yong.

Minister Shanmugam also said the police received 3,591 reports from scam victims in the first half of this year — again, only for the top 10 types of scams reported.

He also outlined the ongoing police efforts on this front:

  • the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force set up in October 2017, which works with foreign law enforcement agencies to crack down on foreign syndicates targeting Singaporeans. It solved about 270 cases of internet love scams involving S$27.6 million, working in partnership with the Royal Malaysia and Hong Kong police forces. It also helped with the capture of two Nigerian scammers in Malaysia, who were brought to Singapore to face charges.
  • an E-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team set up in November last year, which arrested 54 e-commerce scammers and solved more than 920 e-commerce scams.
  • an Anti-Scam Centre, set up by the police's Commercial Affairs Department, which works closely with DBS, OCBC and UOB to freeze bank accounts suspected to be involved in scams and also stop fund transfers involving them. This cooperation allows speedier freezing of accounts ("typically within a day, actually", says Shanmugam), as compared to up to a month — the length of time banks can take to comply in the previous process. In its first three months of operation, it has managed to freeze 1,286 bank accounts and recover around S$1.25 million, about 33 per cent of the amount lost.
  • Working with digital platforms like Carousell to introduce scam advisories and its "Caroupay" payment mode, which holds the money paid until both buyer and seller acknowledge the completion of the transaction.
  • Working with telecommunications companies to quickly terminate mobile numbers used by scammers.

Apart from these, Shanmugam says the police is working with the media to transmit public education messages, as well as convenience stores, remittance agencies and banks to raise their awareness and ability to detect and prevent suspicious transactions. He said these efforts have helped prevent at least 77 scam cases involving more than S$160,000 thus far this year.

Primary responsibility for tackling scams lies with the public: Shanmugam

But of course, the minister points out that "no amount of police resources will be enough to stop scams", in particular because the police are only alerted after the crime is committed, and more importantly, because scammers are constantly evolving their methods.

"In fact, the primary responsibility for stopping this increasing trend of scams should lie with all of us. If we are more sceptical of incredulous inducements promised by scammers, transact only on reliable platforms, and develop a habit of checking with the actual authorities when approached by dubious entities purporting to be government officials, fewer of us would fall prey."

Top photos via National Crime Prevention Council Singapore Facebook page