Crime rate falls but Internet love scams up 65 per cent
$24 million lost as Internet love scams hit record high
Singapore's crime rate fell 2.6 per cent last year, with seven categories including robbery, theft, violent or serious property crime, and housebreaking falling to a 30-year low, the police said yesterday.
Despite their efforts to highlight and tackle Internet love scams, coupled with media reports on such cases, 636 people still fell prey last year, losing $24 million, double the $12 million victims were cheated of in 2015.
At their annual crime statistics briefing yesterday, the police said overall crime cases dropped from 33,839 in 2015 to 32,964 last year.
But last year's 636 reported cases of Internet love scams, the highest so far, was a 65 per cent increase from the 385 in 2015.
Most of the victims were local women aged between 30 and 59, said the police. About a third were professionals while a quarter were housewives, unemployed or retired.
Internet love scams first surfaced in 2008 and have been on the rise since.
The scammers usually befriend - and charm - their victims on social media or via online chat apps before tricking them into parting with their money.
In 2014, The New Paper reported that a 74-year-old woman lost $1 million to a man who contacted her three years after her husband's death when she was still grieving and in search of companionship.
Last year, another woman lost $1.7 million - the highest so far, The Straits Times reported.
Dr Ken Ung, a psychiatrist at the Adam Road Medical Centre, told TNP that people fall prey because many of them suffer from low self-esteem or crave intimacy.
"These scammers prey on human nature, and people who are vulnerable," he said.
"Sometimes, these victims can sense something amiss, but yet they still want the attention. It's like a drug to them. When it comes to emotions, logic can go out of the window."
Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist with Insights Mind Centre, urged Internet users to take a step back before transferring money.
He also advised people in such situations to consult their friends and families before making a decision.
Another area of concern was the emergence of scammers impersonating Chinese officials. Last year, there were 487 cases, with victims losing $23 million.
The police advised the public to be wary of people they meet online and when getting calls from strangers.
Credit-for-sex scams fell by almost 34 per cent from 1,177 cases in 2015 to 779 cases last year. The amount cheated fell from $3m to $1.7m.
The police said they are working with the Chinese authorities to take down syndicates in China.
Anyone who wishes to report a scam or seek advice can call the Anti-Scam Helpline at 1800-722-6688.