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Singapore sees 50% surge in 2023 scams: Job and E-commerce frauds prevail

According to the SPF, scams soared by 46.8% in 2023, marking an eight-year high. Despite the increase, total losses saw a slight decrease. Job scams topped the list, followed by e-commerce and fake friend call scams.



SINGAPORE: Singapore saw a significant surge in scam cases in 2023, with reported incidents reaching more than 46,000, marking an eight-year climb in scam figures, according to data released by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) on Sunday (18 Feb).

The total number of cases increased by 46.8%, rising from 31,728 in 2022 to 46,563 in 2023, marking the highest recorded figure since the initiation of scam tracking by the police in 2016.

Despite the alarming increase in the number of cases, SPF reported that there was a slight decrease of 1.3% in the total amount of money lost by victims, which amounted to S$651.8 million, a contrast from the preceding five years.

The police highlighted that job scams ranked as the top type of scams, followed closely by e-commerce scams, fake friend call scams, phishing scams, and investment scams.

Just last week, SPF revealed that at least 460 individuals have been ensnared in investment and job scams since the start of this year, resulting in staggering losses exceeding S$6.8 million (US$5 million).

This also marked the second consecutive year in which the SPF disclosed its yearly data on scam and cybercrime incidents independently from physical crime statistics.

Increases in scam figures in recent times have distorted the overall crime assessment. Additionally, the total count of scam and cybercrime cases surged by 49.6%, reaching 50,376 cases in 2023, up from 33,669 cases reported in 2022.

Photo: Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Photo: Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Efforts by authorities and the private sector, including banks, have contributed to mitigating losses by stopping scams in progress.

However, the SPF emphasized the continued significance of the losses incurred and stressed the importance of public vigilance against scams.

One of the noteworthy observations was the substantial increase in malware-enabled scams involving Android devices, which prompted proactive measures by banks and the government.

During the first half of 2023, there were more than 750 individuals affected, resulting in a collective loss amounting to S$10 million. Across the entirety of 2023, victims incurred losses totalling at least S$34.1 million due to these scams.

Age trends in scams: who’s most vulnerable and how scammers target them

According to a report by the SPF, individuals aged 30 to 49 constituted the most vulnerable age group to scams in 2023, comprising 43.1% of all victims.

Scammers predominantly utilized popular social media and messaging platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, to carry out their deceptive schemes.

Adults were commonly targeted by scammers through social media, messaging platforms, and online shopping platforms.

Youths, aged 19 and below, accounted for 5.3% of scam victims. Among this age group, 32.0% were victims of e-commerce scams, while 25.4% fell for job scams, and 16.6% were victims of phishing scams. Scammers tended to approach youths via messaging platforms, online shopping platforms, and social media.

Young adults, aged 20 to 29, represented 24.6% of scam victims. Within this age bracket, 31.9% were targeted by job scams, while 25.9% were victims of e-commerce scams, and 10.6% fell prey to phishing scams. Scammers typically reach out to young adults via messaging platforms, social media, and online shopping platforms.

Young seniors, aged 50 to 64, comprised 19.9% of scam victims. Among them, 28.0% were victims of fake friend call scams, while 12.8% were affected by e-commerce scams, and 12.2% fell victim to phishing scams. Scammers tended to contact this group of victims through social media, phone calls, and messaging platforms.

The elderly, aged 65 and above, constituted 7.1% of scam victims. Within this demographic, 34.3% were targeted by fake friend call scams, while 13.7% fell victim to investment scams, and 11.7% were victims of phishing scams. Scammers typically reach out to the elderly through phone calls, social media, and messaging platforms.

Photo: Scam victim age profile for 2023. (Singapore Police Force (SPF))

Top scam concerns

Job scams, which accounted for 21.3% of all scam categories, experienced a notable surge in reported cases in 2023, witnessing a 52.7% increase from 6,492 cases in 2022.

Victims were often enticed with promises of remote job opportunities online, only to end up losing significant sums of money.

Furthermore, the total amount lost to job scams in 2023 amounted to at least S$135.7 million, marking a 15.6% rise from the S$117.4 million reported in 2022.

Despite the increase in total losses, the average amount lost per case decreased from S$18,089 in 2022 to S$13,692 in 2023.

Similarly, fake friend call scams saw a sharp rise, with reported cases surging from 2,106 in 2022 to 6,859 in 2023. The total losses also escalated significantly from at least S$8.8 million in 2022 to at least S$23.1 million in 2023.

In contrast, victims of government officials impersonation scams experienced the highest average losses in 2023, with approximately S$103,600 per case.

This was followed by investment scams at about S$50,700 per case, and internet love scams at S$43,677 per case.

Photo: Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Anti-scam measures

In response to the escalating threat of scams, the SPF and other government agencies such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) have rolled out various anti-scam measures.

These include restricting the purchase and registration of post-paid SIM cards and establishing the Anti-Scam Command, which has frozen over 19,600 bank accounts and recovered more than S$100 million.

Effective April 15, individuals will only be permitted to purchase and register a maximum of 10 post-paid SIM cards.

This decision follows the observation by the SPF and IMDA of the misuse of such cards, primarily procured by locals, for illicit activities, including scams and unlicensed moneylending.

The enhanced cap of 10 cards aims to accommodate legitimate users who may require SIM cards for family members while curbing illicit usage.

IMDA will review this limit periodically to ensure its ongoing relevance.

Notably, this regulation applies solely to new registrations, and existing subscribers with over 10 post-paid SIM cards will not be affected but will be prohibited from registering additional cards.

Meanwhile, pre-paid SIM cards remain a concern, with individuals still restricted to purchasing a maximum of three pre-paid cards.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, responsible for overseeing the SPF, will be introducing new offenses to criminalize the misuse of SIM cards, with further details forthcoming, as noted by the SPF.

Furthermore, the SPF’s Anti-Scam Command, operational since March 2022, has been instrumental in freezing numerous bank accounts and recuperating significant sums.

Collaboration with six banks and the Government Technology Agency has facilitated swift responses to scam cases and identification of suspicious activities in Singpass accounts.

Additionally, staff from the popular e-commerce platform Carousell have been integrated into the Anti-Scam Command to enhance efforts in dismantling scam-related online profiles and adverts, according to the SPF.

“The fight against scams must continue and the responsibility cannot rest with law enforcement alone,” said Mr David Chew, director of SPF’s Commercial Affairs Department.

“Scams will continue to evolve, so a discerning and vigilant public is essential. The police will continue to work closely with stakeholders and other government agencies to safeguard Singapore against scams.”

Moreover, the recently enacted Online Criminal Harms Act (OCHA), which will be progressively implemented starting this month, holds potential in the fight against scams.

Under OCHA, the government is empowered to issue directives to online platforms to prevent scam-related content from reaching Singapore users.

Mrs Josephine Teo during a Parliament debate said, “under OCHA, designated online service providers may also be required to implement measures (if not already taken) to proactively disrupt online scams, including those facilitated by deepfakes.”

“The Government is working with industry partners to strengthen our capabilities to deal with these threats,” she added.

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All these people can contribute to the gdp .


Ka ka ka .