A new inter-ministry committee has been set up to combat the growing scourge of online scams as more police reports were made on them last year.

The committee will formulate and carry out a strategy to deter and prevent online scammers from carrying out their operations, mitigate losses incurred and ensure the public remains vigilant of such scams.

The committee will be manned by representatives from three ministries – the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Trade and Industry – and others.

Announcing this during the debate on her ministry’s budget yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that online scams were an area of concern and scammers have been deploying novel ways of cheating their victims.

The number of police reports made on scams jumped by more than 50 per cent last year to 9,502, with many related to e-commerce, fake loans and credit-for-sex schemes.

Enforcement capabilities must keep pace with technological developments, she said. Apart from the new inter-ministry committee, the Government has also improved capabilities with the formation of the police’s Anti-Scam Centre last year to mitigate victim losses.

“But even as the Government steps up efforts to combat scams, we cannot do it alone. Businesses have a role to play too,” said Ms Sun, noting that e-commerce platforms and banks could be exploited by online scammers.

The Government will work with these businesses to put in place measures to deter criminals.

“That said, the best defence against scams continues to be a discerning public. Criminals are looking to exploit people’s feelings for loved ones or other personal motivations,” said Ms Sun.

The public should be sceptical of promises that sound too good to be true, and adopt precautions such as utilising an escrow account when making online transactions, she said.

The Home Team will also continue to engage the community to prevent and respond to terror attacks through the SGSecure movement, by rolling out customised programmes to different community groups.

The Save-A-Life initiative was launched in 2015 to encourage the community to be first responders and to save lives.

More than half a million people have since been trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and to use an automated external defibrillator, she said.

She added: “The Home Team will develop stronger capabilities to deal with new challenges, but more importantly, we need to work in partnership with the community.”