More falling for online love scams
Slight dip in crime in first half of 2017, but rise in scams, molest causes concern
Overall crime rates dropped slightly in the first half of this year, but more people are falling for two types of scams.
Mid-year statistics released yesterday show a total of 16,375 cases of crime, down by about 0.5 per cent from the 16,452in the same period last year.
But several crimes, including scams and outrage of modesty, have gone up and were flagged by the police as cause for concern.
Of "great concern" are Internet love scams, which have been on the rise, said the police.
They hit an all-time high last year with 636 cases, up from 385 in 2015. And the half-yearly figures for this year already show a 26 per cent increase over the same period last year.
The 349 cases from January to June cost victims some $22.1 million, compared with 277 reported cases, with $11.2 million lost, in the same period last year.
In love scams, victims are usually befriended online by attractive foreigners.
After gaining their victims' trust, the scammers will dupe them of their money through various cons.
A police spokesman said such crimes are challenging to solve because of the borderless nature of the Internet, and urged the public to exercise caution.
"A significant proportion of online commercial crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates that find ways to exploit and prey on the vulnerabilities of potential victims," he said.
The police said they will continue to focus crime prevention efforts on the online community.
The highest amount lost in a single love scam case this year was close to $6 million.
In one case, a businesswoman was swindled of $1.1 million in an elaborate scam that involved a fake United Nations officer, a fake bank website, and a briefcase purported to contain US$2 million (S$2.7 million) in cash.
The 45-year-old divorcee was duped into using her own money to try to help a Canadian man she had grown close to after he was "arrested" in Malaysia on suspicion of money laundering.
She carried a total of $1.1 million during several trips across the Causeway in an attempt to free him from detention, only to later discover it was a con job. (See report on page 3.)
E-mail impersonation scams went up by 29 per cent, with the number of cases rising to 160 this year from 124 last year.
A total of $21.9 million was lost this year, with the highest single amount being close to $4 million.
E-commerce scams saw a 10.5 per cent drop, but police have said they remain a concern.
About $691,700 was lost in the 900 cases this year, with $60,700 lost in one such case. There were 1,006 cases in the same period last year.
Aside from scams, outrage of modesty cases saw a rise from 655 last year to 717 this year.
Such cases at nightspots have increased from 44 last year to 52 this year.
Cases on public transport fell by one to 70 this year, but the high number is of concern.
To fight this, the police have released an outrage of modesty advisory video to be screened on public transport.
The video advises the public to be vigilant and on what to do when such incidents occur.
This follows a case last month, when a video was posted on social media showing a man stroking the thigh of a young woman seated next to him on a train.
The man was later arrested, but the incident shed light on how victims of molest on public transport are often too afraid or stunned to respond.