Big spike in cyber scams drives up crime stats

The Monitoring and Operations Command Centre (MOCC) set up at Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). Photo: Ernest Chua
Published: 9:54 AM, January 30, 2015
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SINGAPORE — A startling three-fold jump in the number of cyber-cheating cases drove up the total number of crimes here for the first time since 2009, the police’s latest annual crime statistics show.

Overall, there were 29,984 cases reported last year, 7.4 per cent more than in 2013. While most crime classes continued to register declines, e-commerce cheating or extortion on cyberspace climbed from 510 cases to 1,659 cases last year, in addition to blips in statutory rape and outrage of modesty cases.

Shoppers who were duped into making multiple payments for purported online bargains made up the bulk of these cases. The 904 cases last year was more than triple that in 2013. Crooks would put up advertisements for products at low prices but ask for payments repeatedly on the pretext that the goods would be delivered eventually.

Bogus emails from online payment service PayPal asking victims to disclose their personal information was another favoured scam, with the number of cases jumping from nine in 2013 to 122 last year.

And despite warnings in the last six years, women still fell for cheats posing as Casanovas online to ask for monetary “help”. Such cases more than doubled to 197 last year, involving a whopping S$8.8 million. Similarly, there were more than twice as many people falling prey to hoaxes of their loved ones being kidnapped last year.

New Internet scams have also emerged, in the form of fake gift cards or virtual credits being peddled online, the police warned yesterday. There were 149 such cases reported last year, with victims losing a total of S$138,700.

To curb the growing trend of online crimes, the police said they will carry out more exercises to educate the public on the scammers’ modus operandi.

“Internet users are also urged to exercise heightened vigilance to avoid falling victim to such preventable crimes,” they added.

Meanwhile, the higher number of youth arrested was flagged as a key crime concern. Last year, 3,094 youth were nabbed, up 2.1 per cent. They were arrested for offences such as rioting (39 persons) and shop theft (14).

There were also 66 cases of statutory rape — where a person has consensual sex with a female below age 14 — with the majority of these committed by youth who are known to their victims, the police said.

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