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Close to 400 Covid-19-related scams reported, S$1.4 million cheated from January to April

SINGAPORE — From January to April this year, a total of 394 scams related to Covid-19 were reported and victims were cheated of at least S$1.4 million, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said on Thursday (June 4).

In his written reply to Parliament, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that in all, 5,425 cases of scam were reported from January to April this year with at least S$60.4 million cheated.

In his written reply to Parliament, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that in all, 5,425 cases of scam were reported from January to April this year with at least S$60.4 million cheated.

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SINGAPORE — From January to April this year, a total of 394 scams related to Covid-19 were reported and victims were cheated of at least S$1.4 million, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said on Thursday (June 4). 

He was replying to a question filed by Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency, who asked about the number of scams and subsequent losses since the pandemic began. Mr Yong also wanted to know whether the police are taking any steps to prevent such crimes, especially among seniors who are easy targets.

In his written reply to Parliament, Mr Shanmugam said that in all, 5,425 cases of scam were reported from January to April this year with at least S$60.4 million cheated.

Of these, 394 were connected to Covid-19 and they are broadly categorised into three types:

  • E-commerce scams, such as those related to the sale of face masks and hand sanitisers

  • Impersonation scams where perpetrators pretended to be officials from the Ministry of Health so that they could retrieve the victims’ personal data and information

  • Phishing scams which typically involved fraudulent emails and phone text messages containing fake offers or false information on payouts disbursed by the Government. This is done with the aim of tricking the victims into sharing their credit or debit card details or their one-time passwords (OTP) for access to accounts.

In carrying out their activities, the suspects exploited e-commerce platforms and online channels such as Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Carousell, WhatsApp and Telegram, he said.

Mr Shanmugam said that the police have taken action against the culprits — mounting island-wide operations that have led to the arrest of 27 people who were involved in scams that took more than S$484,000 from victims.

The operations took place between Feb 3 and April 8.

The police have also ramped up public education and made efforts to create more awareness on such crimes.

For example, they have partnered the National Crime Prevention Council to work with the Ministry of Communications and Information to issue scam advisories via online platforms such as WhatsApp and the Gov.sg website.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the police were already working with residents’ committees and grassroots volunteers to alert residents to scams through WhatsApp and community events such as block parties, roadshows, festive events and Community Safety and Security Programmes, Mr Shanmugam said.

“The key to the fight against scams is a discerning public. We should be sceptical of promises of incredulous inducements, transact only on reliable platforms, and always check with the relevant authorities when approached by dubious entities purporting to be their officials,” he added.

“Everyone has a part to play in the fight against scams. Members of the public are urged to stay vigilant and report possible scams promptly to the police.”

Related topics

scam e-commerce Covid-19 Carousell police WhatsApp Telegram

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