Crimes reported in Singapore rose 6.5pc in 2020, fuelled by 65pc jump in scam cases with over S$200m lost

The number of reported scams soared in 2020 as Singaporeans stayed home more, especially during the circuit breaker, while physical crimes fell. — wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock pic
The number of reported scams soared in 2020 as Singaporeans stayed home more, especially during the circuit breaker, while physical crimes fell. — wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock pic

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SINGAPORE, Feb 10 — The number of crimes reported in Singapore rose 6.5 per cent last year, fuelled by a sharp jump in scams as Singaporeans stayed home and made more online transactions amid the pandemic — losing more than S$200 million (RM610.3 million) to scammers in the process.

However, the number of physical crimes decreased, with theft — and housebreaking-related crimes falling to a 36-year low, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in its annual crime briefing yesterday.

Singapore also recorded 201 individual days without theft, robbery and housebreaking crimes, an increase of 23 days compared to 2019.

Overall, the number of crimes increased from 35,115 in 2019 to 37,409 in 2020 but the number of scams soared by 65.1 per cent from 9,545 in 2019 to 15,756 in 2020.

Theft and related cases fell by 33.1 per cent to 7,448 in 2020 while housebreaking and related cases slid by 24.9 per cent to 211 in 2020.

If scams were excluded, the number of crimes reported would have dropped by 15.3 per cent, from 25,570 in 2019 to 21,653 in 2020.

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Rise in scam cases, total amount cheated

Scams comprised 42.1 per cent of all reported crimes in 2020, up sharply from 27.2 per cent the year before.A total of S$201.2 million was cheated via scams last year, up S$79.4 million from 2019.In descending order, the top 10 types of scams were:

  • E-commerce scams
  • Social media impersonation scams
  • Loan scams
  • Banking-related phishing scams
  • Investment scams
  • Credit-for-sex scams
  • Internet love scams
  • Non-banking-related phishing scams
  • Tech support scams
  • China officials impersonation scams

E-commerce, social media impersonation, loan and banking-related phishing scams made up 68.1 per cent of the top 10 scam types reported last year.

The total number of cases for these four scam types jumped by 78.5 per cent compared to 2019.

E-commerce scams

  • 3,354 e-commerce scam cases were reported in 2020, a jump of 19.1 per cent from 2,816 cases in 2019
  • The total amount cheated trebled to S$6.9 million, from S$2.3 million the year before
  • The largest single sum cheated was S$1.9 million
  • Most e-commerce scams reported involved transactions on Carousell (1,319 cases, or 39.3 per cent), with Shopee reporting the highest increase of 150.7 per cent, from 278 cases in 2019 to 697 in 2020
  • Common scams involved electronics, Covid-19-related items and personal accessories

Social media impersonation scams

  • Social media impersonation scams jumped 283 per cent to 3,010 cases in 2020 from 786 in 2019
  • The total sum cheated rose to S$5.5 million from S$3.1 million. The largest single sum lost was S$367,000
  • Most scams occurred on Instagram and Facebook, with 885 and 1,962 cases respectively

Loan scams

  • Loan scams rose to 1,990 cases in 2020 from 1,750 in 2019
  • At least S$14.5 million was cheated in 2020, up from at least S$6.8 million in 2019
  • In most cases, victims were told via platforms such as Short Messages Service (SMS), WhatsApp or search engines to pay a deposit before receiving a loan
  • Scammers claimed to represent moneylenders, banks, government agencies or e-commerce sellers

Scam reports, anti-scam operations and arrests

  • The SPF’s Anti-Scam Centre received more than 11,190 scam reports in 2020, amounting to a loss of more than S$164.6 million
  • In 2020, the centre froze more than 9,015 bank accounts and recovered S$57.6 million, or 35 per cent of the total amount cheated, terminated more than 1,200 mobile lines and removed more than 2,900 suspicious online monikers and advertisements involved in suspected scams
  • The SPF conducted 22 anti-scam enforcement operations and investigated more than 4,900 money mules and scammers in 2020
  • Last year, four joint operations were conducted with international counterparts, leading to the arrest of more than 30 people overseas who were responsible for more than S$1.9 million lost via online scams

Cyber extortions

  • Cyber extortion cases jumped to 245 in 2020 from 68 in 2019
  • Criminals usually befriend victims online, via platforms such as Tinder, Facebook and Michat, and persuade them to perform compromising or indecent acts on camera, before using the footage to extort the victims
  • In 2020, more than S$793,000 was lost through cyber extortion cases, with the highest amount lost in a single case about S$200,000

Unlicensed moneylending-related harassment and outrage-of-modesty cases

  • The number of unlicensed moneylending-related harassment cases fell by 36.7 per cent to 3,344 cases last year partly because of movement restrictions during the circuit breaker
  • Outrage-of-modesty cases fell from 1,605 in 2019 to 1,320 in 2020, as Singaporeans went out less in the circuit breaker

Businesses can help prevent crime by implementing anti-scam measures and precautions to keep their customers safe, said the SPF.

Civilians can also keep themselves and their friends and family members safe by being aware of potential threats and remaining vigilant, said director of the Criminal Investigation Department and senior assistant commissioner of police How Kwang Hwee.

“That is a key part of our crime-fighting strategy, especially when you look at scams,” he added. — TODAY

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