The Web is S'pore's new crime scene

The number of online love scams rose sharply by 143 per cent last year, with victims - including a 74-year-old woman - being cheated of $8.8 million.

This was one of the crime statistics for last year that police revealed at a media conference yesterday.

Overall crime increased by 7.4 per cent last year, compared with 2013, with a large portion of the increase being due largely to a rise in e-commerce scams.

Singapore's overall crime rate had hit a 30-year low in 2013.


The statistics also showed that there were 197 love scams last year, a 143 per cent increase from 81 cases in 2013. About 85 per cent of these victims were female, aged between 20 and 74. A large proportion of the victims were aged between 35 and 60.

The love scams have many similarities: The conman typically converses with the victim through e-mail or phone calls, before saying he wants to come to Singapore to propose to her. Upon his "arrival", the conman would tell the victim that he was detained by Customs officers for carrying too much cash, and request the victim transfer money to free him.

In all, these love scams cheated victims out of $8.8 million last year, compared with $5.8 million in 2013. The largest scam amount last year was $883,109.

The police said the online love scammers were largely foreigners from the Philippines.


Online crimes have also been on the rise, having more than trebled in the past year, the police said.

Cheating involving e-commerce cases increased by 1,149 cases to 1,659 cases last year, a 225.3 per cent rise.

This was likely due to an increase in people using online shopping facilities, the police said.

Multiple payment online purchase scams and PayPal e-mail scams also rose by 236 per cent and 1,256 per cent respectively.

A new type of scam emerged last year, in which culprits would ask their victims to buy gift cards or virtual credits. There were 149 such cases reported last year, with $138,700 cheated.


Youth crimes also rose with 3,094 young people arrested last year, up from 3,031 in 2013.

Of this, 322 young people were arrested for rioting and 805 for shop theft.


Statutory rape cases also rose by 15 cases from 51 in 2013 to 66 last year. Most offenders were youths who knew the victims.

More outrage-of-modesty cases happened on board MRT trains and in open areas, leading to a 3.2 per cent increase to 1,367 cases last year.


Meanwhile, the number of harassment cases stemming from unlicensed moneylending continued to fall, from 7,052 in 2013 to 5,763 last year.

On the crime statistics, deputy commissioner of police (investigations and intelligence) Tan Chye Hee said that, while overall crime has increased, Singapore's "crime rate remains low".

"Crimes are shifting online and new scams are constantly emerging, with victims falling prey every day," he said.

"On a positive note, the unlicensed moneylending and harassment situation has been improving steadily. The police will continue to raise awareness of scams so that members of public will not fall prey to them.

"We will also press on with our tough enforcement efforts against unlicensed moneylending-related activities."

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