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Overall crime cases in Singapore fall in H1, but e-commerce scams remain a concern

SINGAPORE saw a 0.5 per cent drop in overal crime cases to 16,375 in the first half of 2017 compared to 16,452 a year ago, but e-commerce scams remained a concern, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Monday.

Theft and related crimes cases fell by 2.6 per cent, to 6,831 cases in the first half of 2017, from 7,011 cases a year ago. Theft from persons and motor vehicle related thefts have both shown a significant decrease. SPF said the drop in the latter could be attributed in part to the community's participation in the Vehicle on Watch (VOW) initiative and the use of in-vehicle cameras. Housebreaking cases decreased by 21.5 per cent to 84 cases from 107 cases.

Commercial crime cases fell by 3.2 per cent to 4,169 cases from 4,308 cases a year ago. SPF said its outreach and education efforts, as well as strong support from the media to raise public awareness, have helped to reduce such cases, especially e-commerce scams, which have fallen by 10.5 per cent 900 cases. However, e-commerce scams remain a concern as the number of cases remains the highest compared to other scams.

Internet love scams and email impersonation scams, in particular, have registered significant increases in the first half of 2017. The former saw a 26 per cent increase to 349 cases, while the latter a 29 per cent jump to 160 cases.

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The largest amount cheated in a single love scam case for the first half of this year was close to S$6 million. As a result, the total amount cheated from love scams rose by 97.3 per cent to S$22.1 million in the first half of 2017, from S$11.2 million a year ago.

The largest amount cheated in a single email impersonation scam came close to S$4 million in the first-half of 2017, boosting the total amount cheated by 25.9 per cent to S$21.9 million compared to S$17.4 million a year ago.

SPF said online crimes were challenging to solve because of the borderless nature of the internet.

"A significant proportion of online commercial crimes are committed remotely by foreign syndicates that will continue to find ways to exploit and prey on the vulnerabilities of potential victims,'' SPF warned.

It also urged the public to exercise caution when befriending unknown persons through the Internet, to exercise due vigilance against spoof emails when performing transactions and fund transfers, and to be extra cautious when making online purchases.

Outrage of modesty (OM) cases saw a 9.5 per cent rise to 717 cases in the first half of 2017 from 655 cases. Violations at entertainment night spots rose by 18.2 per cent to 52 cases, while those on public transport fell by 1.4 per cent to 70 cases.

SPF warned that it would continue to take a tough stance on OM cases and urged members of the public to be vigilant and to report incidents to the authorities as soon as possible.