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Record number of scam cases in Singapore in 2023, even as total amount of money lost to scammers fell slightly | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | | #dating | #hacking | #aihp

A lottery message scam (left) and a scam phone call (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore saw a record number of scam cases in 2023 with 46,563 reported – a whopping 46.8 per cent spike compared to 31,728 reported in 2022 – even though the total amount of money lost to scam fell slightly from $660.7 million in 2022 to $651.8 million in 2023.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in its annual scams and cybercrime brief on Sunday (18 February) that the top five scams were job scams, e-commerce scams, fake friend call scams, phishing scams and investment scams. These made up about 78.4 per cent of all scam types.

The average amount lost to each of the top five scam types has “generally decreased”, said the police. Overall, the average amount lost per reported scam case decreased by about 32.8 per cent, from $20,824 in 2022 to $13,999 in 2023.

Breakdown of top five scam types

Job scams were the biggest scam of concern, and increased from 6,492 cases in 2022 to 9,914 reported cases in 2023. The majority of job-scam victims were between the ages of 30 to 49 (45.4 per cent), and the most common platforms scammers used to contact the victims were WhatsApp and Telegram.

E-commerce scams came in a close second and more than doubled from the previous year, with 9,783 reported cases in 2023 compared to 4,762 cases in 2022. Victims lost at least $13.9 million in 2023, down from $21.3 million in 2022. The most commonly-featured scam items were rental of residences, electronic goods and concert tickets, while the majority of e-commerce scam victims were aged 30 to 49.

A new variant of e-commerce scams, freecycling, also emerged last year. Victims would come across posts offering free giveaways or items at discounted prices on social media. Scammers would then ask for goodwill deposits, reservation fees or delivery fees, of which money would be lost.

Screenshot of Facebook account used to approach the victim in e-commerce scam (left) and conversation between scammer and victim (Photos: SPF)

There were 6,859 fake friend call scam cases were reported in 2023, up from 2,106 cases in 2022. More than $23 million was lost to this scam last year, with most of the victims aged between 50 and 64.

The fourth-most type of scam in 2023 was phishing scams with 5,938 cases reported, down from 7,097 cases in 2022. The majority of the victims were aged 30 to 49, with Carousell, SMSes and Facebook as the most common channels used by phishing scammers.

Investment scams, on the other hand, have gone up from 3,108 cases reported in 2022 to 4,030 cases in 2023. The police also noticed an upward trend of victims being added into chat groups or channels on WhatsApp and Telegram for “investment opportunities”.

Malware-enabled scams, social media impersonations scams, loan scams, internet love scams, and government officials impersonation scams rounded up the top 10 scam types. Government officials impersonation scams had the highest average losses of about $103,600 per case, followed by investment scams at about $50,700 per case.

Pie chart of scam types by number of cases (left) and scam types by amount lost in millions (Photos: SPF)Pie chart of scam types by number of cases (left) and scam types by amount lost in millions (Photos: SPF)

Pie chart of scam types by number of cases (left) and scam types by amount lost in millions (Photos: SPF)

Top platforms scammers used to contact victims

The top five contact methods scammers used to reach out to victims were social media, messaging platforms, phone calls, online shopping platforms and other websites. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are of “particular concern” to the police, as they continue to be over-represented as platforms where scams are conducted.

In 2023, the number of scam cases where scammers contacted victims via social media increased to 13,725, from 7,539 in 2022. About 71.7 per cent came from Facebook, followed by 18.5 per cent on Instagram.

Scam cases where scammers contacted victims via messaging platforms also increased, from 7,599 in 2022 to 12,368 in 2023. The top two messaging platforms used were Whatsapp at 68 per cent, and Telegram at 26.5 per cent.

One other contact method of concern to the police is phone calls. Scams conducted through phone calls almost doubled, from 3,602 in 2022 to 7,196 in 2023. Fake friend call scams made up the majority at 79.2 per cent, followed government officials impersonation scams and job scams.

Table of top contact methods of scam cases in Singapore in 2023 (Photo: SPF)Table of top contact methods of scam cases in Singapore in 2023 (Photo: SPF)

Table of top contact methods of scam cases in Singapore in 2023 (Photo: SPF)

Adults, young adults and young seniors were most targetted

The top three age groups who fell victim to scams were adults (age 30 to 49), young adults (age 20 to 29) and young seniors (age 50 to 64).

Adults made up 43.1 per cent of scam victims, while young adults made up 24.6 per cent. Both age groups, as well as youths aged 19 and below, most commonly fell victim to job scams, e-commerce scams and phishing scams.

Young seniors were the third-most targeted age group, making up 19.9 per cent of scam victims. They mostly fell prey to fake friend call scams, e-commerce scams and phishing scams.

The elderly (aged 65 and above), and youths made up the last two scam victim profile groups, at 7.1 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively. The elderly most fell prey to fake friend call scams, investment scams and phishing scams, of which scammers would reach out via phone calls, social media and messaging platforms.

Last year, more than 1,500 people lost at least $1.1 million to concert ticket scams from fake online listings. In December 2023, the police and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board expressed concerns over a growing number of government officials impersonation scams, of which more than $13.3 million was lost by at least 120 victims.

Since the start of the year, more than 580 victims have lost at least $223,000 to e-commerce concert ticket scams.

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