‘The enemy is evolving all the time’: Police bust 8 scam syndicates in first 5 months of 2023

There were 13 such syndicates busted in 2022, and scam victims in Singapore lost $660.7 million, up from $632 million in 2021, bringing the total amount lost to almost $1.3 billion in two years.

Christine Siow

Christine Siow

The Straits Times


Anti-Scam Command chief Shee Tek Tze said the police have formed over 80 partnerships with stakeholders to fight scams. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

May 25, 2023

SINGAPORE – Between January and May 2023, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) busted eight scam syndicates with help from law enforcement agencies overseas.

There were 13 such syndicates busted in 2022, and scam victims in Singapore lost $660.7 million, up from $632 million in 2021, bringing the total amount lost to almost $1.3 billion in two years. In the same period, scam cases increased by 32.6 per cent, from 23,933 to 31,728 cases.

Scams continue to evolve, and Assistant Commissioner of Police (AC) Shee Tek Tze says partnerships and information sharing are vital tools in the fight against the scourge.

He said on Wednesday: “We are not stopping. We are consistently looking for leads and information to enable our partners overseas to carry out enforcement operations.

“The collaboration and sharing of information across different police forces are very important when everybody has the same mission to take down these syndicates.”

AC Shee, who is deputy director of the Commercial Affairs Department and also commander of the Anti-Scam Command, was among a group of 351 Home Team (HT) personnel honoured on Wednesday at a promotion ceremony held by the Ministry of Home Affairs at Orchard Hotel.

AC Shee, who will become Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police from June 1, said the SPF has formed over 80 partnerships with stakeholders like banks and fintech companies to combat crimes such as scams.

And he noted the sharing of information with overseas law enforcement agencies helped to cripple the eight scam syndicates in the first five months of 2023.

In March, the police worked with OCBC Bank to use robotic process automation (RPA) technology to allow them to identify potential scam victims.

Declining to delve into specifics so as to not reveal too much information to scammers, AC Shee said RPA identifies people who are either potential scam victims or have already become victims.

These people are then quickly notified by the authorities to stop their transactions and limit their losses.

AC Shee stressed the importance of being innovative in fighting scams.

He said: “The enemy is evolving all the time. The benefit (of RPA) is that instead of losing $10,000, maybe victims just lose that initial amount.”

The SPF estimated on Wednesday that over $12.6 million of potential losses to scammers had been averted, and 700 potential victims had been saved, because of the collaboration with OCBC.

OCBC was involved in a high-profile phishing scam from December 2021 to January 2022 that saw about 790 victims lose $13.7 million.

About 6,158 HT officers will be promoted in 2023. They include 3,820 regular officers from the various departments and statutory boards.

AC Shee credited his success to his family and colleagues who he said have supported him through the years.

He said: “I think that any success in life will not be possible without support from people around you. I will continue to be committed to the mission that the Singapore Police Force has.”

At the promotion ceremony, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, who was the guest-of-honour, congratulated the officers on their new appointments.

He added: “Because of your work, and the work of other HT officers, the HT, as a whole, has continued to do well. And Singaporeans appreciate that.”

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