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Understand the Differences between Criminal Fraud & Civil Fraud in Singapore

4 min read

Both an individual and a business may commit fraud. Fraud can also affect individuals and companies commercially and/or cause reputational harm. For fraud in Singapore, there are two main categories:

While both types of fraud involve and require proof of dishonesty and deception, they differ in terms of;

  • how proceedings are conducted,
  • the elements involved and burden of proof,
  • the legal consequences, and
  • remedies.

In civil proceedings, the burden of proof for claimants will be to prove fraud on a balance of probabilities. In criminal proceedings, the prosecution is responsible for proving that the offender has committed fraud beyond a reasonable doubt.

Criminal Fraud in Singapore

The state prosecutes criminal fraud, which refers to fraudulent activities, as criminal offences.

Examples of criminal fraud in Singapore include;

Read more: Account Executive forged hundreds of checks

What is the Punishment for Fraud?

Criminal fraud is a serious offence that carries severe penalties, including imprisonment, caning, and fines.

What is Cheating?

In Singapore, the governing law is the Penal Code. In Section 415 of the Penal Code, cheating is defined as:

  • intentional deception,
  • inducement to deliver property or to do something, and
  • dishonesty

What is the Sentence for Cheating?

Section 415 of the Penal Code is punishable under Section 417. Under this section, a person convicted of cheating can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and/or receive a fine.

Common Cheating Offences

Unauthorised Use of Someone Else’s Credit/Debit Card

Under Section 416A of the Penal Code, the offence of illegally obtaining personal information carries an imprisonment term of up to 3 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Unauthorised computer access with intent to commit fraud is punishable under Section 4(1) read with Section 4(2) of the Computer Misuse Act 1993, and under Section 420 of the Penal Code, carries an imprisonment sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.

Forgery for the purpose of cheating

Forging the document or electrical record for cheating is an offence under Section 468 of the Penal Code. If convicted, offenders can face imprisonment for a term extending to 10 years and/or a fine.

Cheating of Property

“Property” refers to your house and includes movable property like mobile phones, jewellery, vehicles, etc. Section 420 of the Penal Code provides the aggravated form of the cheating offence where the offender dishonestly induces the victim to deliver his property to any person. If convicted, the offender can face imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine.

Money laundering

The Corruption, Drug, Trafficking, and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA) governs the prevention of money laundering and the offences related to money laundering in Singapore. Under Section 54 of the CSDA, any person who:

  • Conceals or disguises any property which directly or indirectly represents benefits from criminal activity,
  • Converts or transfers that property or removes it from jurisdiction, or
  • Acquires, possesses, or uses that property,

Shall be guilty of an offence that is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $500,000. The maximum fine for an offending company is S$1,000,000.00 or twice the value of the property on which the offence was committed.

Civil Fraud in Singapore

Civil fraud refers to when a victim makes a claim against a fraudster through civil litigation. In Singapore, civil fraud can be defined as any act that involves dishonesty or deceit that causes harm or loss to another person or entity.

Examples of civil fraud in Singapore include:

What to do if you are a victim of fraud/scam in Singapore

You may file a civil claim against the scammer to recover your money if it can be traced and identified.

You may order the fraudster/scammer to compensate you for your losses. If the fraudster/scammer fails to comply with the order, you may also apply under Order 22 of the Rules of Court 2021 to enforce the order, which may include the seizure and sale of the fraudster/scammer’s property or the attachment of debt.

However, there are financial aspects to consider when pursuing an enforcement order so you may consult a lawyer for further advice.

In other instances, the victim may obtain damages, compensation, and other relevant remedies. Sometimes, the court may also award punitive damages to punish the perpetrator for wrongful actions.

What’s the deadline for suing for fraud in Singapore?

For a civil claim, you can only sue for fraud within six years from the date the cause of action arose.


Criminal fraud is dealt with through criminal prosecution and carries severe penalties, including imprisonment and fines. On the other hand, civil litigation deals with civil fraud, where a victim must conduct proceedings to obtain remedies.

Understanding the differences between criminal fraud and civil fraud is vital for anyone who has been a victim of fraud or who wishes to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

GJC Law credits Trainee Noelle Teoh for her research.

What can we do for you?

Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact our criminal representation lawyers at 6337 0469 or email us at

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