Today, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) announced that it had set up an Anti-Scam Centre (ASC) within its Commercial Affairs Department since 18 June this year.
With a focus on disrupting the operations of scammers and also helping lessen losses by victims, the ASC had over 1,000 police reports relating to ecommerce and loan scams referred to it since its establishment.
Shared Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Lim Hao Jun from the Criminal Investigation Department’s Operation, Investigation Policy and Training Division during a media briefing, the ASC will be the “nerve centre for scam reports”, helping to streamline the investigation and prosecution process to enable the police to intervene as quickly as possible.
The ASC was established after the team had “studied similar bodies set up overseas”, and while no names were mentioned, the police revealed that there are similar set-ups in Canada, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
A physical centre for the ASC will be opened later this year.
ASC To Work With Banks, Telcos, Digital Platforms
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) Aileen Yap, who oversees the ASC project, revealed that the new centre had managed to free 815 bank accounts linked to scams – all thanks to partnerships with local banks DBS, OCBC, and UOB.
With the partnerships, suspicious DBS, OCBC, and UOB bank accounts can be frozen in a few days.
The retrieval of bank account holders’ details and bank statements for police investigations can now be done within 5 working days.
This was a process that used to take 14 to 60 days.
Said DAC Yap: “The police would like to thank DBS, OCBC and UOB for their partnership and commitment to swiftly freeze scam-related bank accounts to mitigate victim’s losses [and retrieving] bank account holders’ particulars promptly to allow police to carry out investigations against these money mules and suspected scammers.”
These partnerships have allow the recovery of 35%, or about S$850,000, of S$2.4 million in losses in total.
Said Mr Elvin Lim, head of Group Investigations at DBS Bank: “In this partnership with ASC, we are actually enabling the funds to be captured before it falls into the hands of the perpetrators … and we are able to do so 24/7.”
He added that there are also plans to have one DBS employee stationed permanently at ASC by the end of this year.
Head of Investigation, Group Risk Management at UOB, Mr Richard Soh also shared how the ASC helped a bank customer who became victim to an online scam.
The police revealed that they’re in talks with telcos to come to an agreement (like what they have with banks) where mobile lines used by scammers can be “swiftly [terminated]”.
It will also work with online platforms like Carousell to introduce scam prevention measures, especially with “high-risk categories” like listings for concert tickets, hotel rentals of Universal Studios Singapore tickets.
Ms Tan Su Lin, vice president for Operations at Carousell shared that the firm is also ensuring that sellers looking to list in these categories need to use CarouPay, which only sends sellers funds once buyers confirm that what they received was satisfactory.
Added DAC Yap: “We have to constantly devise new strategies, have game-changing ones like the ASC, and with very strong commitments from the banks and the online marketplaces to help us.”
Recent Rise In Crime Rates, Especially Due To Scams
Overall crime has seen an increase by 7% to 16,745 cases in the first 6 months of 2019, with the increase being largely due to scam cases.
Among the top ten types of scams, ecommerce scams, loan scams, credit-for-sex scams, and internet love scams were revealed to be the top concerns for SPF, as they made up 80% of total reported cases in the first half of 2019.
There was also a 60% increase in these scams observed, compared to the same period in 2018.