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Police reports of cryptocurrency scams jumped over 5-fold to 631 last year since 2019

SINGAPORE — Reports to the police of cryptocurrency scams jumped more than five-fold from 2019 to 631 last year, with the “vast majority” of these scams perpetrated by criminals based overseas.

Most cryptocurrency scams were done by criminals outside Singapore, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday (Oct 20).

Most cryptocurrency scams were done by criminals outside Singapore, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday (Oct 20).

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  • Reports to the police of cryptocurrency scams has jumped five-fold since 2019 to 631 last year
  • Over the same period, the money lost by migrant workers to all types of scams has surged from S$4.5 million in 2019 to S$24.9 million last year
  • Most cryptocurrency scams were done by criminals outside Singapore, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said

 

SINGAPORE — Reports to the police of cryptocurrency scams jumped more than five-fold from 2019 to 631 last year, with the “vast majority” of these scams perpetrated by criminals based overseas.

In the same period, the amount of money reported lost by migrant workers here to various types of scams has shot up from S$4.5 million in 2019 to S$24.9 million in 2021.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said that 125 reports of cryptocurrency scams were made in 2019. The number surged to 397 in 2020 and 631 last year.

“The vast majority of cryptocurrency scams are perpetrated by scammers based outside Singapore. As such, there is a limit to how much law enforcement agencies in Singapore can do,” he added.

The ability for the authorities to solve these cases will depend on the level of cooperation from overseas law enforcement agencies, as well as their ability to track down the scammers, Mr Shanmugam said.

“Where the money has been transferred overseas, recovery is even more difficult.”

Mr Melvin Yong, Member of Parliament for Single Member Constituency Radin Mas, had asked about the number of cryptocurrency scams that have been reported annually over the past three years.

He had also asked about whether there is a rising trend to the scams as well as what is being done to combat the crime.

In his reply, Mr Shanmugam said that the police had established a cryptocurrency task force in 2018 to “monitor the cryptocurrency landscape, develop and improve operational procedures in investigations and seizure of cryptocurrencies, and establish working relationships with overseas law enforcement agencies, industry professionals, and academic experts”.

It also works closely with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which regulates entities that deal in or facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrencies here.

Mr Shanmugam, however, noted that the best defence against such crimes is a “discerning public” and that the authorities have stepped up public education efforts here to educate the public on cryptocurrency-related scams.

“Since 2017, MAS has consistently warned that cryptocurrencies are not suitable investments for the general public given their highly volatile prices and speculative nature,” he said.

Since 2017, MAS has consistently warned that cryptocurrencies are not suitable investments for the general public given their highly volatile prices and speculative nature.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam

He warned that members of the public should be careful before making any cryptocurrency transactions.

MONEY LOST BY MIGRANT WORKERS THROUGH SCAMS

Separately, West Coast Group Representation Constituency MP Rachel Ong had asked the Prime Minister about the total amount of money lost by migrant workers to scams in each of the last three years.

The MP also asked whether the MAS framework for the equitable sharing of losses arising from scams includes migrant workers and whether there will be special consideration made for them in the compensation of losses given the workers’ vulnerability to scammers claiming to be from government authorities.

In his reply on behalf of the Prime Minister, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that the total amount of money reported lost by migrant workers to scams was S$4.5 million in 2019, S$10.4 million in 2020, and S$24.9 million in 2021.

The top two scam types involving migrant workers were phishing and job scams, he added.

Mr Tharman said that the Government is taking action “on multiple fronts” to disrupt the scammers’ operations, strengthen enforcement against perpetrators, and increase public education.

The authorities have also been stepping up public education and engagement efforts to raise awareness of scams among the migrant worker community.

Among other efforts, Mr Tharman said that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) regularly provides anti-scam advisories and resources to migrant workers in their native languages.

The ministry has also been running a social media campaign on scam prevention targeted at migrant workers since July 2022.

The police also work closely with MOM and non-governmental organisations to disseminate the latest scam modus operandi within the relevant anti-scam advisories, and to conduct outreach events.

On whether special consideration will be made for the migrant workers in the compensation of their losses, Mr Tharman said that MAS is working with other government agencies to “design a framework for shared responsibility amongst relevant parties when a scam occurs, and one which incentivises each party to be vigilant against scams”.

“The framework will apply to customers of financial institutions,” he said.

Related topics

cryptocurrency crime scam Migrant Workers

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