SINGAPORE – While the number of scam victims increased in the first half of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022, the amount lost fell, with signs emerging that scammers could be changing tactics.
There were 22,339 scam cases reported from January to June 2023, a 64.5 per cent increase from the 13,576 cases during the same period last year.
However, the total amount victims lost in the first half of this year dipped slightly to $334.5 million, from $342.1 million during the same period last year.
Scam victims in Singapore lost a total of $660.7 million in 2022, up from $632 million in 2021.
Releasing the mid-year scam statistics for 2023 on Wednesday, the police said more than half, or 55 per cent, of victims lost up to $2,000.
Seven of the top 10 most common scams saw a drop in the average amount lost per victim.
The average amount lost to job scams from January to June stood at $13,851, down from $17,532 in the same period last year.
The average amount lost to e-commerce scams also fell to $1,635, from $3,773 during the same period last year.
National University of Singapore business professor Lawrence Loh said scammers could have changed tactics by targeting more people, but for smaller amounts each time.
He said scammers are now casting a wide net and trying to hook as many victims as they can, to cheat them of smaller amounts, rather than spending a lot of time and effort on getting one victim to give up his life savings.
He said: “This makes it easier for the scammers. They may choose to put up a scam advertisement online and just wait for the fish to bite. It is less labour-intensive than trying to gain the trust of a victim, which would take time.”
Because of this, Prof Loh noted that victims may fall prey to scams even when buying small-ticket items like mooncakes or beer online.
The Straits Times has reported such cases recently, and Prof Loh said: “The figures show that scammers may now be choosing to cheat $100 each from 1,000 victims, instead of $100,000 from just one victim. So the amount cheated each time may be getting smaller, but the hit rates are getting higher.”
The police said that among the top 10 scam types, government officials impersonation scams, which was the ninth most common scam in the first half of 2023, had the highest average loss at about $116,000 per victim.
Investment scams had the second highest average loss, with victims losing around $60,000 each time.
Said the police: “These two scam types involve deception over a period of time, using complex social engineering and deception methods.”