Published: 11 July 2016
Mr. Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) whether the phone scam suspects arrested recently by several countries have also been involved in Singapore's phone scam; (b) if so, how do the authorities work with the international agencies to bring them to justice; and (c) whether the suspects can be tried in Singapore if found to have committed the phone scam crime in Singapore especially where there are Singaporean victims.
1. The widespread use of social media and messaging platforms on mobile phones has given rise to new scam tactics. Scams are now being committed not just through phone conversations but also over the Internet accessed through mobile phones. Such scams include credit-for-sex scam, internet love scam, kidnap hoax scam and lottery scam. There were 2,450 of such cases in 2015 as compared to 1,015 cases in 2014.
2. These cases are typically committed by sophisticated scam syndicates based overseas. The transnational nature of these crimes present significant enforcement challenges. The syndicates know that such transnational crimes are not easy to solve. They hide behind the anonymity of the Internet platforms, leverage the ease of online payment and choose victims that are not from the country where the syndicate is based.
3. Where foreign law enforcement agencies are willing to cooperate, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will work closely with them to take action against these overseas syndicates. In 2015, the SPF conducted a joint investigation with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People's Republic of China into a credit-for-sex scam syndicate that targeted Singaporean victims. The syndicate operated from China, using social media platforms to deceive Singaporean victims into paying money for non-existent sexual services. According to the Chinese Police, this syndicate may have also targeted victims in Australia. As a result of the joint investigation, the Chinese Police conducted successful raids at various locations in China that led to the arrest of 43 individuals. These individuals will be dealt with by the Chinese authorities.
4. The best defence against online and phone scammer is prevention. Together with the National Crime Prevention Council, the Police will continue with its public education and outreach efforts to create more public awareness about the various scam tactics. Members of the public are advised to exercise caution and vigilance to avoid falling victim to such scams.