Published: 06 October 2020
Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what has been the trend of scam crimes in the past 10 years; and (b) what is the police's strategy to reduce such scam crimes.
1. Mr Speaker, the Police started to track the number and types of scams from 2016, when it started to become a crime of concern. Since then, the number of scams reported has increased by 77%, from 5,383 cases in 2016 to 9,545 cases in 2019. There were 10,402 cases of scam reported in the first eight months of this year, which is a 100% increase over the 5,229 cases reported during the same period last year.
2. In terms of the total amount lost, it hasalso risen over the past years, from S$89.7 million in 2016 to S$170.8 million in 2019. In the first eight months of this year, the total amount cheated increased by almost 72% to S$157 million, from S$92 million in the same period in 2019.
3. The Member asked what the SPF is doing about this. MHA adopts a multi-pronged approach to tackle scams. First, strengthening enforcement. The Police have set up specialised units to disrupt scammers’ operations. One of these units is the E-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team (E-FECT). Since its formation in November 2018, the E-FECT has arrested 101 e-commerce scammers and solved about 2,000 e-commerce scams. In June 2019, the Police set up the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC), which acts as a nerve centre for investigations into scam-related crimes.The ASC’s focus is to mitigate victims’ losses, through the swift interdiction of the proceeds of the crime. In its first year of operation, the ASC froze more than 6,100 bank accounts and recovered more than S$21.2 million.
4. Second, the Police have stepped up collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies. The Police set up the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force (TCTF) in October 2017 to investigate transnational scams such as China Officials Impersonation Scams, Internet Love Scams and Credit-for-Sex Scams. We have seen good results since. To date, the TCTF has conducted 12 joint operations with international counterparts, resulting in the arrests of over 120 suspects. Let me set you two examples. First, in November 2019, the TCTF worked with the Royal Malaysia Police, Hong Kong Police Force and the Macau Judiciary Police to jointly cripple an Internet Love Scam syndicate based in Malaysia. The group is believed to have been involved in at least 139 cases in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau, involving losses of about S$5.8 million. Second, in May 2019, the TCTF successfully extradited two Nigerian men to Singapore for cheating Singapore-based victims in Internet Love Scams perpetrated from Malaysia. The two accused persons were charged in court in May 2019, and the trial is still ongoing.
5. Third, we work closely with public and private sector stakeholders. The Police regularly engage banks, remittance agencies and convenience stores to train their frontline staff to spot possible scam victims. In 2019, the Police commended 108 recipients from the community for preventing 91 instances of scams involving approximately S$5 million. Earlier this year, the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams was set up to coordinate a whole-of-government effort to combat scams. Their roles include (i) to improve scam detection and disruption capabilities; (ii) to develope measures to secure the digital space; (iii) to enhance the loss recovery and remediation experience for scam victims; and (iv) to improve public education and outreach efforts against scams.
6. Fourth, public education. The Police and the National Crime Prevention Council have disseminated advisories through various media platforms, including messaging and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. In August 2020, an anti-scam public education campaign, ‘Spot the Signs. Stop the Crimes.’, was launched. This new campaign focuses on sharing real-life scam examples to educate and inform the public on how to spot the tell-tale signs of various scams.
7. Indeed, the key to the fight against scams is a discerning public. They are urged to stay vigilant and report possible scams promptly to the Police.