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  Home > Singapore

Email impersonation scams, online love scams on the rise

Email impersonation scams have gone up by about 30 per cent last year compared to the year before. Photo: Unsplash


 February 10th, 2018  |  11:13 AM  |   455 views



Email impersonation scams have gone up by about 30 per cent last year compared to the year before, fresh statistics released by the police on Friday (Feb 9) showed. There were 328 cases of email impersonation scams in 2017, up from 257 in 2016.

The amount lost in such scams also rose by about 70 per cent, with at least S$43 million lost last year, up from at least S$25 million in 2016.

The highest amount lost in a case last year was close to S$5.7 million.

These figures were revealed about a week after the police published their annual crime statistics, where they highlighted that Internet love scams, email impersonation scams and e-commerce scams were areas of concern.

In one case, dating back to March 2015, a general manager of an international trading company based in Singapore had transferred €100,000 (about S$163,000) to an impersonator pretending to be one of his company’s suppliers.

Ben (not his real name), 38, was duped into believing the hackers after they created a similar email address as the company’s usual supplier and seemed to know the details of the transaction.

The police explained that hackers in email impersonation scams would often monitor the correspondence between companies and would wait for the opportune moment to strike.

In this case, the hackers chose to act when Ben was about to pay his suppliers. They instructed Ben to transfer the €100,000 to a Polish bank account, claiming that it had a subsidiary company in the country.

Ben said: “I didn’t know that it was the hacker, because the email address was exactly the same.” He realised he was conned after the supplier contacted him about two days later, saying payments were not received.

Ben lodged a police report and contacted the European bank to ask if the transfer was made. “Fortunately, the European bank had blocked the transfer,” he said. “Through various legal measures, (our company) has managed to recover about 90 per cent of the money lost over the last two years.”

The police noted that online fraud transcends national boundaries, and they would continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to crack down on overseas syndicates targeting Singaporeans.


Internet love scams, another serious crime concern, hit a new high last year. Cases increased by about 30 per cent and the sums of money cheated went up by 50 per cent.

There were 825 cases last year, up from 635 cases the year before.

The total amount cheated — at S$37 million — was also a new high compared to S$24 million in 2016.

In one single case, a victim lost S$6 million, which was a record amount.

This year, a recent case involved a 40-year-old woman who was cheated of S$3,000 by a man who claimed he was working in the United States.

The woman, who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, said that she first accepted the man’s request to be friends with her on Facebook. She thought the man “looked honest” and “gentlemanly” in his profile picture.

Less than a week after Ms Tan befriended the stranger, he then told her that he would send her gifts from the US such as “laptops, iPhones and gold bars”, and she would have to pay S$3,000 in “courier fees”.

A “courier” contacted her, claiming to be delivering her parcels, and asked her to make the money transfer to a Singapore bank account.

Alarm bells rang when she was asked to transfer another S$12,500 to the courier after the first transaction was completed.

“That was when I was certain it was a scam,” Ms Tan said, adding that she has since learnt her lesson. “I may not be getting back my S$3,000, but I hope I can spread awareness to others to be more alert when trusting strangers online.”

On Thursday, Singapore and Malaysia police busted an online love syndicate that is believed to have cheated people of more than S$240,000. Two women and a man were arrested for their suspected involvement in several cases of Internet love scams in the two countries.

The syndicate allegedly relied on individuals in Singapore to receive and transfer their proceeds.

The police repeated their call to members of the public to be careful when befriending strangers online, to avoid falling prey to such love scams.



courtesy of TODAY

by Cynthia Choo


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