Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
Cheating is a criminal offence in Singapore. This article explains when cheating is committed and the penalties for being convicted of cheating.
What is the Offence of Cheating in Singapore?
According to section 415 of the Penal Code, cheating occurs when a person:
- Fraudulently or dishonestly deceives the victim to either hand over property or money to any person, or consent that another person retains his property or money; or
- Intentionally induces a deceived victim into either doing anything that he would not do if he had not been deceived, or omitting to do something that he would have done if he had not been deceived. The acts or omissions must also cause, or must be likely to cause, damage or harm to any person in body, mind, reputation or property.
An example of cheating includes where the cheater pretends to be from the government and intentionally deceives the victim to pay for goods which the victim did not mean to pay for.
Penalties for Cheating
The penalty for cheating under section 415 of the Penal Code is a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
In 2019, a full-time national serviceman was convicted of several cheating offences and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 14 months.
One of these offences was committed in 2014, where the full-time national serviceman was given a list of event participants and their NRIC numbers as part of a volunteer stint. However, he used the list to make 49 mobile line applications in order to obtain heavily discounted or free mobile phones bundled with the mobile plans. He obtained 28 phones worth $30,152 in total and sold several to second-hand dealers.
He also pretended to be a Mediacorp representative in 2017 and deceived a company employee into delivering to him 50 T-shirts worth more than $600 in total, without paying for them.
In 2018, he deceived a victim into believing that he paid her for $5,000 worth of products by showing screenshots of purported bank transfers.
More recently, a 24-year-old man was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for deceiving 40 people into parting with $38,000 in total for concert tickets on online marketplace Carousell. Several victims were as young as 13 years old.
There is a more serious form of cheating found under section 420 of the Penal Code, which targets cheating by intentional or dishonest inducement of the delivery of property.
Such aggravated cheating occurs when a person cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the victim to:
- Hand over property to any person;
- Partially or completely make, alter or destroy a valuable security* (such as credit cards, stored value cards and automated teller machine (ATM) cards);
- Make, alter or destroy a signed and sealed document which may become a valuable security.
The penalty for such aggravated cheating under section 420 of the Penal Code is a fine and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
Other cheating offences
Cheating by personation
It is also an offence to “cheat by personation“. According to section 416 of the Penal Code, cheating by personation occurs when the cheater:
- Pretends to be some other person;
- Knowingly substitutes one person for another; or
- Tells the victim that he or some another person (the cheater’s accomplice, for example) is someone else than who they really are,
regardless of whether the other person is alive or dead.
The penalty for cheating by personation under section 416 of the Penal Code is a fine, and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.
Illegally obtaining personal information
As of 1 January 2020, it is an offence under section 416A of the Penal Code for a person to obtain, retain or supply someone else’s personal information for the purposes of facilitating the commission of an offence. This is provided that the cheater knows or has reason to believe that such information had been obtained without its owner’s consent.
An example of this offence would be the theft of identity documents by non-technological means. If the identity theft had taken place by technological means, the cheater could instead be charged with an offence under sections 3 to 6 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to unauthorised access, modification or use of computer systems.
The penalty for illegally obtaining personal information under section 416A of the Penal Code is a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
Cheating in casinos
Cheating may also take place in casinos. According to section 172A of the Casino Control Act, a person cheats at casinos if he attempts to obtain money or an advantage for himself or another person by:
- A fraudulent trick, device, sleight of hand or representation;
- A fraudulent scheme or practice;
- A fraudulent use of gaming equipment; or
- Placing a bet in a game after the result of the game is known.
The penalty for cheating in casinos under section 172A of the Casino Control Act is a fine of up to $150,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 7 years.
Cheating in computer games
Cheating in computer games can involve hacking into a game account and emptying it of valuable in-game items, which constitutes unauthorised access to computer material, as provided for in section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act.
The penalty for cheating in computer games under section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years for a first offence.
If losses of at least $10,000 in value were caused as a result of the offence, the penalty is fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 7 years.
How Will Offenders Convicted of Cheating be Sentenced in Singapore?
For the general offence of cheating, courts generally impose a fine if the quantum of the sum of money cheated is small and there are no aggravating factors.
For aggravated cheating under section 420 of the Penal Code, imprisonment is mandatory. Nonetheless, there are exceptional cases where an offender convicted of aggravated cheating may receive the sentence of imprisonment for only 1 day (in addition to the compulsory fine). This can only happen if there are no aggravating factors and there are exceptional mitigating factors.
Aggravating factors resulting in heavier sentences
1. Offences that ought to be deterred for the public interest (e.g. credit card fraud)
The Singapore courts treat credit card offences very seriously. This is because such offences grievously undermine credit cards as a preferred mode of payment in today’s commerce and Singapore’s standing as an international financial hub.
In the case of PP v Fernando Payagala, a 20-year-old Sri Lankan was convicted of cheating for misusing a credit card he had found near his seat during a flight from New Zealand to Singapore. When he landed in Singapore, he had immediately used the card to purchase a laptop valued at $1,522, a watch valued at $449.81 and a mobile telephone valued at $1,288. He was arrested after he tried to buy a bracelet valued at $2,728.01.
2. Complexity of the scheme
Courts may also mete out higher sentences if the scheme to cheat is complex. This was the case in Ong Tiong Poh v PP, where the High Court increased a cheating offender’s jail term from 42 to 60 months. This was because the offender was part of a sophisticated syndicate that was capable of committing credit card fraud on a large scale and was skilled at avoiding detection.
3. Value of the item/quantum of the sum of money cheated
Generally, the higher the value of the item or the quantum of the sum of money cheated, the heavier the sentence can be.
Mitigating factors resulting in lighter sentences
It must be noted that each case will be assessed based on its facts. Therefore, the presence of an aggravating factor will not necessarily mean that a sentence is automatically increased. It will depend on whether there are mitigating factors as well.
1. The accused did not cheat for his or any other person’s personal gain
In the case of Seaward III Frederick v PP, the offender inflated the prices of audio-visual equipment purchased under a hire-purchase agreement in order to cheat a finance company. The offender was sentenced to only 1 day’s imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for the offence of abetting a conspiracy to carry out aggravated cheating. This was because he did not cheat for his or anyone else’s personal gain.
2. The victim did not suffer a loss
Another mitigating factor is where the victim was unlikely to have suffered a loss. In the case of Edmund Nathan v PP, the offender cheated a bank by overstating the purchase price of a property when applying for a bank loan.
The High Court imposed a nominal imprisonment sentence of 1 day and a $10,000 fine, reasoning that the cheating did not cause the property’s actual value to be diminished and the victim was unlikely to have suffered any loss.
3. The offender has already been penalised for the same conduct
Yet another mitigating factor is where the offender has already been penalised by another disciplinary tribunal. In Edmund Nathan v PP, the offender, who was a lawyer, had already received disciplinary action (a fine of $3,000) from the disciplinary tribunal of the Law Society. The High Court, therefore, viewed this prior punishment as a mitigating factor when deciding his sentence.
4. Making restitution
Another mitigating factor is if the offender has made restitution to the victim. By making restitution, the accused person will not be gaining financially from the offence and this is generally considered a mitigating factor.
5. Past criminal record of the accused person
Courts will be likely to grant a lighter sentence if the offender has no past criminal record. Additionally, courts may even consider the national service records for Singapore males where a good record would serve as a mitigating factor.
Will People Convicted of Cheating have a Criminal Record?
Yes, people convicted of cheating will have a criminal record.
However, they may still have the opportunity to have their criminal record treated as spent. This simply means that their record will be wiped clean. To qualify for having their record spent, the offender must first meet the following criteria:
- If they were given a prison sentence, their imprisonment term must have been not more than 3 months;
- If they were given a fine, the fine imposed must have been not more than $2,000;
- They must not have any other conviction on your criminal record; and
- They must not have any previous spent record on the register.
If they meet these criteria, the offender then has to remain crime-free for at least 5 consecutive years, starting from the date of his release from prison, or from the date that his sentence was passed if he had been given a fine. Once the offender accomplishes this, his record will be spent automatically, and he will be able to legally declare that he does not have a criminal record.
Is Cheating/Aggravated Cheating an Arrestable Offence?
Cheating and aggravated cheating are both arrestable offences. This means that the police can arrest alleged cheating offenders without a warrant.
For cheating, the offender can choose to be released on bail and/or personal bond once arrested.
However, for aggravated cheating, it is up to the police or the court to decide whether to release the offender on bail.
Recourse for Cheating
Making a police report
If you are a victim of cheating, you may make a police report::
- At a police station;
- Online, through the Singapore Police Force website; or
- By calling the “999” police emergency line.
The police will conduct further investigations and the accused person may be charged in court if there is sufficient incriminating evidence.
Recourse through the criminal courts
In situations where you have been cheated of your property or money, the court may order the offender to make compensation to you. However, this does not automatically mean that the property or money you were cheated of can or will be recovered and returned to you.
Recourse through the civil courts
Alternatively, you may file a civil claim against the accused person to recover your money. Even if damages were awarded at the criminal courts, you may still commence civil proceedings against the accused person.
However, note that the amount of compensation that you wish to claim through the civil courts must exclude the amount of compensation already awarded to you by the criminal courts. This is because the law does not allow for the double recovery of compensation.
It is recommended that you engage a civil litigation lawyer to assess the merits of your case before you proceed with commencing a suit against the accused person yourself.
Alternatively, if you have been accused of committing a cheating offence, consider engaging a lawyer to advise you on your options and assist with your case. This can include contesting the charge if you believe that you are innocent, or pleading guilty and negotiating for a lighter sentence.
- What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
- Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
- The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
- How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
- TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
- Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
- When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
- Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
- Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
- Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- Criminal Records in Singapore
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
- How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
- Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
- Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
- Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
- Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
- Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
- Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
- Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
- Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
- Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
- How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
- Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
- What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
- What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
- Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
- Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
- Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- Gambling Legally (In Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
- Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
- Penalties for Littering and Killer Litter Offences in Singapore
- What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
- Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
- Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
- All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
- Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
- 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
- Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
- Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
- Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
- Here are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
- Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore