Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Crimes rise 11.6% in first half of 2020, driven by online scams preying on Covid-19 ‘fear, sense of uncertainty’

SINGAPORE — In the first half of this year, the number of crimes climbed by 11.6 per cent compared with a year ago, driven mainly by a rise in online scams as people stayed home and carried out more internet transactions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 18,121 crimes were reported in the first half of 2020, up from 16,240 in the same period in 2019.

A total of 18,121 crimes were reported in the first half of 2020, up from 16,240 in the same period in 2019.

Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

 

  • The number of reported crimes climbed 11.6 per cent in the first half of 2020
  • The increase was primarily due to a spike in scams, particularly those committed online 
  • The police said that criminals capitalised on the Covid-19 crisis to find new victims 
  • But physical crimes, such as theft and housebreaking, decreased

 

 

SINGAPORE — In the first half of this year, the number of crimes climbed by 11.6 per cent compared with a year ago, driven mainly by a rise in online scams as people stayed home and carried out more internet transactions during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There was, however, a drop in physical crimes, such as housebreaking and theft. 

Releasing crime statistics for the period from January to June, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Wednesday (Aug 26) that 18,121 crimes were reported in the first half of the year, up from 16,240 in the same period in 2019.

Since the police’s Anti-Scam Centre was formed in June last year, more than 8,600 scam reports have been referred to it. These scams involved losses totalling more than S$51.9 million. Of these, 40.8 per cent, or S$21.2 million, has been recovered. 

The centre also froze more than 6,100 bank accounts and terminated more than 1,500 local mobile lines that were used for scams, SPF said. 

“Criminals have been taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation to find new victims by exploiting the public’s fear and sense of uncertainty,” SPF said.

“This is evident from the significant increase in online scam cases reported.”

Physical crimes under three broad classes, however, decreased by nearly 2,000 cases in the first half of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, said SPF. These are crimes against persons, such as serious hurt, outrage of modesty and rioting; housebreaking and related crimes; and theft and related crimes.

SURGE IN SCAMS

Victims of the top 10 types of scams lost S$82 million in the first half of 2020. This is double the S$41.6 million that victims lost in the same period in 2019. These scams are:

  •  

    E-commerce scams

  •  

    Social media impersonation scams

  •  

    Loan scams

  •  

    Banking-related phishing scams

  •  

    Credit-for-sex scams

  •  

    Investment scams

  •  

    Internet love scams

  •  

    Tech support scams

  •  

    Non-banking-related phishing scams

  •  

    China-official impersonation scams

 

E-commerce, social media impersonation, loan and banking-related phishing scams accounted for the largest share (71 per cent) of these scams. The number of scams from these four categories shot up by 163 per cent, compared with the first half of last year.

E-COMMERCE SCAMS 

  •  

    E-commerce scams remain the top scam type, forming the bulk of reported scams in the first half of 2020

  •  

    There were 2,089 cases, a 73.8 per cent rise compared with 1,202 cases in the first half of 2019

  •  

    The total sum cheated was S$5.4 million, up from S$1 million a year ago

  •  

    Some 294 cases involved Covid-19-related items, such as face masks, hand sanitiser and thermometers

  •  

    E-commerce marketplace Carousell had the highest number of scams reported, climbing from 532 to 884. The transactions typically involved the sale of electronics, gaming-related items and Covid-19-related items, such as face masks and hand sanitiser

 

SOCIAL MEDIA IMPERSONATION SCAMS 

  •  

    Social media impersonation scams, meanwhile, jumped more than 10-fold to 1,175, up from 83

  •  

    The total sum cheated rose to S$2.7 million, from S$726,000 

  •  

    The largest sum cheated in a single case in the first half of 2020 was S$367,000

  •  

    In most of these cases, victims were tricked into disclosing their mobile phone numbers or credit card information and one-time passwords to scammers, who used compromised or spoofed social media accounts to impersonate victims’ friends or social media followers. The scammers would often claim to help victims sign up for online contests or promotions, which turned out to be fake. The victims would later discover unauthorised transactions from their bank accounts or mobile wallets

  •  

    Instagram and Facebook were the most common social media platforms where such scams took place

 

BANKING-RELATED PHISHING SCAMS 

  •  

    Banking-related phishing scams soared more than 20-fold to 898, up from 34 

  •  

    The total sum cheated rose to S$3.6 million, from S$93,000 

  •  

    The largest sum cheated in a single case in the first half of 2020 was S$506,000

  •  

    In most of these cases, victims were duped into disclosing their internet banking user names, personal identification numbers and one-time passwords to scammers posing as bank staff members. The scammers would then gain access to victims’ bank accounts or their card information, and perform unauthorised transactions

  •  

    Messaging applications Imo, Viber and WhatsApp were the most common platforms used by the scammers

 

LOAN SCAMS 

  •  

    The number of such scams rose from 650 to 1,014, a 56 per cent climb

  •  

    The total amount cheated more than tripled to S$6.5 million, up from S$1.9 million 

  •  

    The largest sum cheated in a single case in the first half of 2020 was S$250,000 

 

RISE IN CYBER EXTORTIONS  

  •  

    The number of cyber extortion cases more than tripled to 81 from 25 — with more than S$190,000 lost by victims

  •  

    Criminals typically befriend victims and coax them into performing compromising or indecent acts in front of a camera, before using the video footage or images to extort money or online credits 

  •  

    The highest amount lost by a victim in a single case was S$26,000

  •  

    Facebook, Tinder and MiChat were the most common social media platforms used to orchestrate these extortions

 

SCAM-BUSTING EFFORTS

SPF said that it teams up with foreign law enforcement agencies to combat scams committed remotely by foreign syndicates.

To prevent more people from falling victim to scams, public education efforts will continue to focus on the online community, it added. 

On Thursday, it will partner the National Crime Prevention Council to launch an anti-scam public education campaign called “Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes”. 

The campaign, which runs until March 2021, aims to educate the public on how to spot telltale signs of various scams through visuals such as posters and videos. 

Meanwhile, SPF urged business operators to put in place anti-scam measures and precautions against crimes. It also called on the public to stay vigilant and report any crime-related information to the police.

“Family members and friends can play their part, too,” said SPF. “They can prevent someone they know from falling victim by being aware of these threats.”

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus online scam crime

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.