SINGAPORE – The increase in crime for the first half of this year is not cause for concern, but it is a call for people to be more careful, particularly when transacting online, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Saturday (Aug 25).
“If you look at the statistics, the rise is mainly due to Internet scams… and it’s not easy to deal with because often they’re borderless and in a different jurisdiction,” he said on the sidelines of a community event in Yishun.
“The main thing we can do is to educate our people and to try and make the payment methods a little bit more secure, particularly on the platforms.”
His comments come after the police released statistics on Thursday (Aug 23) that showed a spike in crime cases between January and June this year, fuelled by more cases of molest and scams. This is the first time since 2015 that crimes have gone up in the first half of the year.
There were a total of 16,460 crimes reported between January and June this year, up from 15,949 cases over the same period last year.
E-commerce scams have been on the rise, with eight in 10 taking place on online marketplace Carousell, the police said.
“We’ve got to push for that sort of thing,” he said.
“The Internet makes our lives easier, but it also makes the lives of those who want to cheat easier, particularly when they’re overseas.”
Scams involving impersonators that claim to be officials from China saw a more than 200 per cent jump in reported cases to 182. In some instances, victims were told they were implicated in money laundering cases and asked to provide bank account details over the phone for investigations. The amount cheated in these scams more than tripled to $6 million this year.
Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that such scams may target older folk who are more vulnerable as they are more trusting and may sometimes be unaware of such scams.
“We have to try and educate older people; families need to talk to (them). We are putting up advisories and will try and reach out but there is also individual responsilibity – people have to try and understand what and who they are dealing with,” he said.
Education efforts will also extend to molest prevention following an increase in cases, particularly at public entertainment nightspots and on public transport.
The police said they will be launching a campaign to educate clubgoers on how to protect themselves at nightclubs in Clarke Quay.
“The outrage of modesty cases in absolute numbers is about 60 in the first half in public entertainment spots, and about 105 on public transport. It’s an increase… (but) with those it’s much easier to take action because the perpetrators are in Singapore, said Mr Shanmugam.
But for online scams, there is little that legislation can do if the perpetrators are based overseas, he added.
Urging consumers to be careful with their money on the Internet, he said: “There are a fair number of people out there trying to cheat you of your money, and many of them can be from outside Singapore.”