Singapore victims lost over $712 million in 5 yrs: Report

Singapore: Singapore is facing an epidemic of scams with victims having lost more than USD 712 million in the last five-and-a-half years as fake love on the internet remains one the most lucrative online cheating formats since 2011, according to a media report on Saturday.

Authorities have acknowledged difficulties in tackling the problem, pointing out that many of the perpetrators are based overseas, and once the money is transferred, its recovery is difficult, The Straits Times reported.

In the last five-and-a-half years, victims have lost 965 million Singapore dollars (over USD 712 million), it said.

The police, meanwhile, have had some success with their Anti-Scam Centre saying that of the 7,400 scams involving losses of over 201.7 million dollars (USD 148 million) last year, it was able to recover 66 million dollars (USD 48 million), the report said, highlighting an epidemic of scams, given the recent phishing saga involving customers of OCBC Bank, one of the largest banks in Singapore.

Scammers pocketed a record 268.4 million dollars (USD 198 million) in 2020, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said in a written response to a parliamentary question on scams. It was nearly triple the 89.7 million dollars (USD 66 million) stolen in 2016.

The report said that internet love scams have remained one of the most lucrative scams in Singapore since 2011.

The amount duped from lovelorn victims has grown from 2.3 million dollars (USD 1.6 million) in 2011 to 8.8 million dollars (USD 6.4 million) in 2014 and 33.1 million dollars (USD 24 million) in 2020.

The police said that 90 per cent of the scams in Singapore had originated from overseas, adding that they have worked closely with foreign law enforcement agencies to monitor and share information on emerging scams and conduct joint operations to cripple syndicates.

The police said that last year, the Anti-Scam Division (ASD) of the Commercial Affairs Department worked with the Royal Malaysia Police, Hong Kong Police Force and the police force in Taiwan.

"Ten transnational syndicates perpetrating job scams, internet love scams and impersonation scams were busted," the police said.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) of Police Aileen Yap said that the Singapore Police Force had worked with their overseas counterparts to bust 16 syndicates operating outside of Singapore last year.

It led to the arrest of 230 suspected syndicate members, said the officer, who is the assistant director of the Commercial Affairs Department's ASD.

In Singapore, police also arrested and investigated more than 7,000 scammers and money mules last year.

Some are believed to have rented out their bank accounts to scammers or assisted them by carrying out bank transfers and withdrawals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down the syndicates, with more victims falling for job scams, the Anti-Scam Centre said.

In the first six months of last year, there were 658 cases of job scams, a 16-fold increase from just 40 in the same period in 2020.

"Scammers are quick to adapt their tactics and scripts to keep up with the current climate. "During the pandemic, scammers have impersonated government officials to

phish for personal particulars from victims," the broadsheet newspaper quoted the police as saying.

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