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Crimes reported in S’pore rose 24 per cent in 2021, fuelled by steep climb in scams

SINGAPORE — The number of crimes reported in Singapore last year rose by 24 per cent, driven by a surge in scam cases as scammers took advantage of the Covid-19 situation to prey on the public’s increase in online activities, heightened vulnerability and sense of uncertainty. 

Crimes reported in S’pore rose 24 per cent in 2021, fuelled by steep climb in scams
The increase in total crime reports in 2021 was driven by a surge in scam cases, the Singapore Police Force said on Feb 16, 2022.
  • There were 46,196 reported crimes last year, the highest number since 2011 
  • The number of cases rose by 24 per cent from 2020
  • It was driven by a 52.9 per cent jump in scam cases as scammers took advantage of the Covid-19 situation to prey on the public’s increase in online activities, heightened vulnerability and sense of uncertainty 
  • Scams made up 51.8 per cent of all crime reports last year 
     

SINGAPORE — The number of crimes reported in Singapore last year rose by 24 per cent, driven by a surge in scam cases as scammers took advantage of the Covid-19 situation to prey on the public’s increase in online activities, heightened vulnerability and sense of uncertainty. 

A total of 46,196 crimes were reported last year, a jump from 37,273 cases in 2020, said the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in its annual crime brief released on Wednesday (Feb 16). 

This is the highest number of cases since 2011. 

But there was a decrease in physical crimes, with theft and housebreaking related crimes falling by 8 per cent to 6,843 and 23.8 per cent to 160 respectively. Both numbers are at a 37-year low. 

The police also reported 250 days which were free from snatch theft, robbery and housebreaking crimes, an improvement compared to 202 crime-free days in 2020. 

However, scam cases soared by 52.9 per cent to 23,931 cases last year, from 15,651 cases in 2020. Scam cases made up 51.8 per cent of all crime reports in 2021. 

The total amount cheated of victims for the top 10 scam types shot up to S$504.4 million in 2021, from S$175.2 million in 2020. 

This is the highest number of scam cases reported on record.

The top 10 types of scams in Singapore last year, from most common to least common, were: 

  • Job scams
  • Non-banking-related phishing scams
  • E-commerce scams
  • Investment scams 
  • Loan scams 
  • Banking-related phishing scams 
  • Social media impersonation scams 
  • Internet love scams 
  • China officials impersonation scams 
  • Fake friend call scams 

Here is a breakdown of some of the scams and other crimes that the police highlighted in its report.

JOB SCAMS

  • 4,554 cases were reported in 2021, a huge jump from 132 cases in 2020.
  • This is the highest number of reported cases across all scam types in 2021
  • The total amount cheated increased to at least S$91 million in 2021, from at least S$217,000 in 2020. 
  • The largest sum cheated in a single case was S$4.3 million.

The police said that scammers commonly used advertisements on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and Tiktok platforms and SMSes.

They also approached victims on dating platforms such as Tantan and Facebook Dating. 

NON-BANKING-RELATED PHISHING SCAMS 

  • 2,783 cases were reported in 2021, a more than quadrupling from 644 cases in 2020
  • The total amount cheated jumped to at least S$15.3 million in 2021, from at least S$984,000 in 2020
  • The largest sum cheated in a single case in 2021 was S$3.4 million

Scammers commonly used reasons such as checks on the delivery status of a parcel or refund for unauthorised transactions to persuade victims to provide their banking credentials or card details and one-time passwords. 

SMSes, calls and emails were the most common channels used by scammers to approach the victims.

E-COMMERCE SCAMS 

  • 2,707 cases were reported in 2021, a 19.4 per cent decrease from 3,359 cases in 2020 
  • The total amount cheated fell to at least S$5.8 million in 2021, from at least S$7.1 million in 2020
  • The largest sum cheated in a single case in 2021 was S$400,000

Carousell, Facebook and Shopee were the most common platforms where these scams took place and the common items involved in the transactions were electronic goods and gaming-related items.

BANKING-RELATED PHISHING SCAMS 

  • 2,237 cases were reported in 2021, a 66.9 per cent jump from 1,340 cases in 2020 
  • The total amount cheated more than tripled to at least S$19.4 million in 2021, from at least S$5.3 million in 2020
  • The largest sum cheated in a single case in 2021 was $1 million

In these cases, culprits impersonated banks or government officials and approached victims via calls.

They also sent unsolicited SMSes claiming that there were issues with the victims’ banking account and victims were asked to click on a link in the text message to resolve the issue. This was the modus operandi for the recent OCBC phishing scam

OUTRAGE OF MODESTY 

  • 1,480 cases were reported in 2021, a 12 per cent increase from 1,321 cases in 2020 
  • Outrage of modesty cases accounted for 42.3 per cent of all sexual crime cases reported in 2021
  • 62 per cent involved culprits known to the victim 

VOYEURISM 

  • 467 cases were reported in 2021, an 18.5 per cent increase from 394 cases in 2020 
  • About two-thirds or 67.2 per cent of voyeurism cases occurred in residential premises, on public transport systems and in shopping complexes 

The police attributed the increase in both voyeurism and outrage of modesty cases to the lower number recorded in 2020. 

That year, the Government implemented the circuit breaker, which lasted from April 7 to June 1, when people largely remained home, possibly contributing to lower ridership on public transport and footfall at shopping malls, likely reducing the incidence of such cases. 

CYBER EXTORTION 

  • 420 cases were reported, a 71.4 per cent increase from 245 cases in 2020
  • The total amount lost by victims of cyber extortion cases was at least S$1.3 million

The police said that criminals would typically befriend victims online and coax them into performing compromising or indecent acts in front of a camera, and use the video footage or images to extort money or online credits from these victims.

The most common social media platforms where these cases took place were Facebook, Instagram and Tinder.

To combat the rise in scams, the police set up the Anti-Scam Division (ASD) to coordinate all of its anti-scam investigations and enforcement. 

The Anti-Scam Centre (ASC), which is under ASD, uses technology to track scam trends and analyse crime data. It received more than 23,800 reports with losses amounting close to S$520 million last year.

ASC froze more than 12,600 bank accounts and recovered more than S$102 million last year.

Related topics

crime scam Anti-Scam Centre police phishing OCBC

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