Published: 05 July 2021
Ms Ng Ling Ling: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how is the Singapore Police Force building digital investigation capabilities for investigating online scams and digital fraud; and (b) how long does it take on average to solve each case.
1. The Police are pursuing a multi-pronged approach to building their digital investigation capabilities to combat cyber and cyber-enabled crimes, including online scams.
2. First, better organisation of resources. Since June 2015, the SPF’s cyber-related investigations, forensics and crime prevention capabilities have been integrated under a single Cybercrime Command (CCC) within the Criminal Investigation Department. The establishment of the CCC has allowed the SPF to achieve better coordination and coherence in their response to cybercrime.
3. To better combat scams, the Police will be forming an Anti-Scam Command later in 2021. The Anti-Scam Command will serve as the overall command centre for all scam-related investigations within the SPF, enhancing sensemaking and allowing for quicker and more targeted interventions and enforcement actions.
4. Second, formation of specialised units. The Police have set up three specialised scam suppression units that will report to the Anti-Scam Command. First, the Police set up the Transnational Commercial Crime Task Force (TCTF) in October 2017 to tackle transnational scams. Second, an E-Commerce Fraud Enforcement and Coordination Team (E-FECT) was set up in November 2018. Since its formation, the E-FECT has arrested 110 e-commerce scammers and solved about 2,250 e-commerce scams. Third, in June 2019, the Police set up the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC). The ASC’s focus is to mitigate victims’ losses, through the swift interdiction of the proceeds of the crime. Since ASC’s inception in Jun 2019, it has frozen about 16,000 bank accounts and recovered more than $120 million. During the same period, the ASC also worked with telecommunication companies and online marketplaces to terminate more than 2,200 scam-tainted phone lines and remove more than 3,300 suspicious online monikers and advertisements.
5. Third, better training of officers. Officers performing cybercrime investigations and digital forensics are given specialised training. For example, officers attend courses such as those offered by renowned cybersecurity training providers like the SANS Institute and Black Hat, to enhance their understanding and knowledge of various technical cyber areas, spanning malware analysis, intrusion detection and network penetration testing.
6. Fourth, harnessing technology to help solve crimes, such as digital forensics. One example is the Digital Forensic Kiosk, which is a self-service platform for Investigation Officers (IOs) to easily retrieve and analyse information from digital devices such as mobile phones and portable storage media.
7. Fifth, developing strategic partnerships with local stakeholders and international partners. In 2017, the Police set up a dedicated public-private industry platform – the Alliance of Public Private Cybercrime Stakeholders, comprising technology giants such as Facebook and Google, telcos, banks, web hosting companies, e-commerce platforms and fintech companies. The aim is to increase cybercrime awareness in the private sector through structured engagement, and to establish key partnerships to achieve operational effectiveness in combating cybercrime. Police also work closely with our overseas counterparts and INTERPOL to investigate cases with a foreign nexus.
8. How quickly a case is solved is dependent on many different factors, and differs across the different types of online scams. Also, cases where the perpetrators are outside Singapore, which is most of the cases, will take much longer, and it may not even be possible to identify the perpetrators. As such, SPF does not track the amount of time it takes to complete investigations. It is not meaningful since each case would differ in its facts and circumstances.