Despite the ardent information campaign and anti-scam measures of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the number of reported scams continue to rise at a staggering pace in Singapore. From 9,545 cases in 2019, scam cases rose to 15,756 in 2020—a whopping 65.1 per cent increase, as reported by the SPF. Over SGD 200 million were lost to scammers from the top ten scams alone, which include e-commerce, social media impersonation, and banking scams.
Apart from the dramatic rise of scam cases, what is concerning is that 80 per cent of the victims are aware of the prevalent scams in Singapore as they have been made aware of them through SPF’s many public campaigns. Moreover, 45 per cent of the scam victims have fallen prey to illegal schemes more than once, according to a survey by the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC).
While the figures are troubling, it just shows how easy it is to be victimized by con artists. Contrary to a common misconception that only senior citizens and the less educated are cheated, police records show that victims of financial scams come from all walks of life, even young and highly educated professionals.
If you are a victim wanting to bring perpetrators to justice but do not know how to get help, read on. We are sharing the different steps you can take to deal with financial scammers:
Call the Anti-Scam Helpline
Perhaps you tried googling “report scam call in Singapore” to find out where you can report your experience. If so, you must have seen the anti-scam helpline number provided by the SPF and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC). Calling 1800-722-6688 is probably the easiest way to get timely advice after being victimized by scammers.
From e-commerce and loan scams to bank phishing and internet love scams, the hotline is open to assisting the public with all scam-related issues. It is important to note that you can call the number even if you merely suspect that a potential scammer is contacting you. That way, you can readily stop fraudulent activity in progress and not lose any more of your hard-earned money.
Lodge a Police Report
The police take financial scam and fraud cases seriously. In fact, SPF set-up the Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) in 2019 to consolidate all anti-scam and investigation efforts in order to address the staggering rise in scam cases in the city-state. As such, you should never hesitate to report any fraudulent activities to the SPF.
You have several options when lodging a police report. You can file at a Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) or a Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP). You can also do so electronically via the Electronic Police Centre.
Before filing a complaint, take the time to write down everything that happened from the time the scammers contacted you until you discovered their bogus activity. Every detail matters, so make sure to take notes. Do not rely on memory. Investigations can take a long time to complete, and it would be in your best interest to have a written record of the event, apart from the report you will submit to the police.
You should also gather evidence to support your complaint. Keep in mind that anything that could help the investigators locate the perpetrators or trace the money matters. Here are examples of pertinent documents and information that you need to collect:
- Names, titles, or positions used by the scammers
- Social media account profiles, group chats, or other online interactions
- Website addresses
- Printed copies of emails
- Contact numbers you used to communicate with them
- Proofs of exchanges of digital currencies like bitcoin
- Credit card statements if you used a credit card
- Records of payment, such as cancelled checks, receipts for online transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards
- Any letter or other forms of correspondence, including envelopes
Once you lodge a police report, the authorities will conduct an investigation, and when successful, file appropriate charges in court. The fraudsters will most likely be charged under sections 415 to 420 of the Penal Code, depending on the offence committed. For instance, cheating by personation or pretending to be someone else under section 416 could result in a fine and a maximum jail sentence of 5 years.
File a Claim through the Community Justice Tribunals System (CJTS)
If you are a victim of e-commerce scams wherein you made an online purchase, but the purchased item was not delivered, you have the option to file a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT). The tribunals can hear petitions up to SGD 20,000 or SGD 30,000 (if both parties agree to it) within two years of the event. Do note that all claims are lodged online through the Community Justice Tribunals System (CJTS).
File a Complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)
The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) can also help victims of e-commerce scams, particularly cases of undelivered purchases or defective goods. CASE can help recover your money by sending a letter to the online retailer or advising you on the best course of action for your situation. Visit the CASE website for information on how to file a complaint.
Alert the Concerned Organization or Business
Perhaps the individuals who deceived you impersonated government officials or high-ranking business managers, or they may have sent you phishing emails purportedly from government agencies or reputable companies, which led you to trust them with your personal information and money. If so, you should also take the time to report the matter to the concerned individuals or organizations—the ones who were impersonated..
Although alerting the affected organization or business does not benefit you directly, this action can help these entities improve their security system and introduce crime prevention measures. Moreover, your experience can warn other people and prevent them from falling prey to scams.
The items above are some of the things you can do when con artists take advantage of you. While lodging a report to authorities is not a guarantee that you will get your money back, it is still better than not having had any chance at all. More importantly, any scam is a crime, and criminals should be dealt with accordingly.