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Police reports of cryptocurrency scams jumped over 5-fold to 631 last year since 2019

SINGAPORE — Reports to the police of cryptocurrency scams jumped more than five-fold from 2019 to 631 last year, with the “vast majority” of these scams perpetrated by criminals based overseas.

In the same period, the amount of money reported lost by migrant workers here to various types of scams has shot up from S$4.5 million in 2019 to S$24.9 million in 2021.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said 125 reports of cryptocurrency scams were made in 2019. The number surged to 397 in 2020 and 631 last year.

“The vast majority of cryptocurrency scams are perpetrated by scammers based outside Singapore. As such, there is a limit to how much law enforcement agencies in Singapore can do,” he added.

The ability for the authorities to solve these cases will depend on the level of cooperation from overseas law enforcement agencies, as well as their ability to track down the scammers, Mr Shanmugam wrote.

“Where the money has been transferred overseas, recovery is even more difficult.”

Mr Melvin Yong, Member of Parliament for Single Member Constituency Radin Mas, had asked about the number of cryptocurrency scams that have been reported annually over the past three years.

He had also asked about whether there is a rising trend to the scams as well as what is being done to combat the crime.

In his reply, Mr Shanmugam said that the police had established a cryptocurrency task force in 2018 to “monitor the cryptocurrency landscape, develop and improve operational procedures in investigations and seizure of cryptocurrencies, and establish working relationships with overseas law enforcement agencies, industry professionals, and academic experts”.

It also works closely with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which regulates entities that deal in or facilitate the exchange of cryptocurrencies here.

Mr Shanmugam, however, noted that the best defence against such crimes is a “discerning public” and that the authorities have stepped up public education efforts here to educate the public on cryptocurrency-related scams.

“Since 2017, MAS has consistently warned that cryptocurrencies are not suitable investments for the general public given their highly volatile prices and speculative nature,” he said.

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