Tech-savvy Singapore sees spike in online scams

Feb 07, 2012
A woman surfs the internet in Singapore. Internet scams have increased in Singapore as consumers in the tech-savvy city-state increasingly turn to online shopping, but the overall crime rate fell to a 20-year low, police said Tuesday.

Internet scams have increased in Singapore as consumers in the tech-savvy city-state increasingly turn to online shopping, but the overall crime rate fell to a 20-year low, police said Tuesday.

The online scams mainly hit people who made purchases in response to advertisements offering discounts on services such as hotel accommodation, holiday packages and car rental, but did not receive what they paid for.

"With consumers increasingly conducting monetary transactions over the Internet, the increase in cheating and relating offences... is not unexpected," said at an annual briefing on the local crime situation.

In 2011, the number of cases where victims failed to receive the goods or services they had paid for spiked to 493, up 52 percent from the previous year.

The rise in such online cheating scams was partly to blame for a two percent increase in commercial crimes, even as the overall crime rate dipped to its lowest figure in 20 years, police said.

There was also a steep rise in "internet love scams", largely involving middle-aged women who were cheated of their money by perpetrators they had befriended through online dating or , police said.

Such cases jumped to 62 in 2011 from 21 in 2010.

Meanwhile, crimes relating to Singapore's two casinos remained under control, police said.

A total 282 criminal cases were recorded inside the casinos in 2011, compared to 299 between February-December 2010. Singapore's first casino opened on February 14, 2010 and the second on April 27 the same year.

Criminal cases recorded outside the casino but still within the "integrated resort" premises were up to 238 from 164, many of them involving theft and "outrage of modesty", police said.

"We are closely monitoring casino crimes and so far we can say that the situation there is well under control," said assistant commissioner of police Ng Guat Ting, the police director of public affairs.

Singapore, a regional financial centre and one of Asia's richest and safest cities, has taken a tough stand against crime. The death penalty is mandatory for certain crimes such as drug trafficking and murder.

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