Love Scams and How to Avoid Them7 min read
Scammers give Love a Bad Name. Don’t be a victim!
I tell you ah, the Internet is great, but it can also be a very scary place. Yesterday my friend Yam Tong showed me his phone excitedly saying, “Eh Tng! See, got chiobu message me leh!”
Don’t be fooled by the pretty looks - the real scammer could be a middle-aged Uncle like me!
I smacked him hard on the arm. “Eh bodoh! This one scam lah!” Luckily for Yam Tong, I was there to knock some sense into his head, but not everyone is so heng. According to the Singapore Police Force, love scammers have cheated at least S$6.6 million from unwitting Singaporeans between January to March 2020!
I know lah, for older singles like Yam Tong, sometimes they get lonely and it’s easier to fall prey to these things. All the more reason to be careful – with retirement just a few years away, you wouldn’t want to lose all your hard-earned savings or get cheated out of your CPF money, right?
Cheh, got so easy to scam meh?
You may think that you’re too smart to get cheated by such scams, but the best of us can drop our guard when we’re emotionally vulnerable, and that’s how scammers can take advantage. With the many online chatting and dating apps nowadays, meeting new people can be super convenient, but it can also increase our chances of encountering those with ill-intentions.
So, how can you tell that you kena love scam?
1. What looks good doesn’t always taste good
Scammers will often present themselves online as successful and attractive. Making you think they are already accomplished not only impresses you, it also helps these scammers build trust faster and make it easier to lure you in.
2. Want to go steady? But online only hor
The scammer may chat constantly with you and try to start a romantic relationship. They may even send you selfies of themselves (fake one lah, of course!). But they will always make excuses not to meet you in real life.
3. A scammer’s best weapon is their tears.
Shortly after getting to know you, the scammer may share that they are in financial difficulty to gain your sympathy. This usually involves a failed business, or they may tell you about a family member who needs money for medical treatment. They may refuse to take money from you at first, but beware – this is simply a ploy to gain your trust in the long run.
4. Being helpful isn’t always the best policy
In some cases, the scammer may ask for help to transfer money on their behalf, or use your name for dubious transactions. They may ask you for your bank details, and your account may end up being used for illegal money laundering purposes. Unfortunately under Singapore law, a victim that unknowingly acts as a money mule can still be fined up to $500,000, jailed for up to 10 years, or both!
Image source: Unsplash
Wow, that’s scary! So how can I avoid being scammed?
While it is possible to find true love online, it always pays to be extra careful when interacting with people on the Internet. That said, here are some things to take note of to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a scam:
1. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally
You’re accountable for all transactions made under your name. Any illegal financial activity that is linked to your bank accounts may land you in trouble, even if you don’t know anything about it.
2. Protect your online details
As a general rule, you should never reveal your personal information to anyone online, especially if you do not know them in real life. This includes your full name, signature, address, phone number or date of birth. Most importantly, do not send pictures of yourself in your birthday suit! There have been many cases of blackmail in recent years, so do tread with caution when interacting online ya.
3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
Attracted by that picture of a pretty lady or handsome gentleman? To check if this person is legit, you can request a ‘live’ video call. Alternatively, you can do a reverse image search (go to images.google.com and click on the camera icon) of their profile picture to see if their information adds up.
4. If you suspect anything, stop all communications immediately
You should inform your family and make a police report by calling 1800-255-0000 or on the I-Witness website. The Anti-Scam Centre run by the Singapore Police Force can help you freeze bank accounts (from DBS, OCBC and UOB) that are under suspicion of scam. Making an early police report may give you a higher chance of getting your money back.
Anyone can fall for a love scam
It can be pretty easy for the lonely and vulnerable to succumb to the sweet talk of love scammers. When things seem too rosy, it’s always prudent to take a step back and clear your head. Always be safer than sorry, and avoid disclosing your personal information to anyone online!
The Patriach of the Tng family, Uncle Tng is a Grab driver with the gift of the gab. He’s loud, always trying to help and still uses the terms “Internet” and “Chat room”. As he sees himself as an experienced man of the world, he’s often sharing his worldly views, whether you are interested or not.