$18.8m lost to China officials impersonation scams in Jan-Nov 2019: Shanmugam

Yahoo News Singapore file photo

SINGAPORE — The total amount lost to China officials impersonation scams was $18.8 million between January and November last year, rising from $12.8 million in 2017, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

The number of such scams surged to 401 cases between January and November last year from 188 cases in 2017, added Shanmugam, who was giving his written answers on Monday (6 January) to a parliamentary question from Tanjong Pagar GRC Member of Parliament Melvin Yong.

In recent years, there was a rising trend of younger victims being targeted in such scams, with more than half of the victims in 2019 being young adults below the age of 30.

China officials impersonation scams, social media impersonation scams, where scammers pretend to be a victim’s family member or friend, and tech support scams, where victims are tricked into installing malicious software onto their computers, are the three types of scams that are of key concern, said Shanmugam.

The total amount cheated from social media impersonation scams surged to $7.2 million between January and November last year from $168,000 in 2017 while the number of cases jumped to 672 cases from 71 cases over the period.   

Similarly, the total amount lost to tech support scams jumped to $12 million between January and November 2019 from $36,000 in 2017 while the number of cases jumped to 224 cases from 53 cases over the period.   

“Criminals are constantly evolving their methods to deceive people into parting with their money. No amount of Police resources will be enough. The key to the fight against scams is a discerning public,” said Shanmugam.

The police have also been stepping community efforts to fight scams, he added.

For instance, the police partner the National Crime Prevention Council to raise public awareness through the regular “Scamalert” segment on the “CrimeWatch” programme and have launched an Anti-Scam Helpline (1800-722-6688).

The police also work with the Residents’ Committees and grassroots volunteers to spread scam alerts to residents such as at roadshows and festive events.

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