Image: Showbit

A man she did not know sent her a friend request on her Facebook account in May last year.

Thinking it could be a chance for her to widen her social circle, she accepted him as a friend.

It resulted in her becoming $20,000 poorer from a common online scam.

The 51-year-old housewife was among 383 people who reportedly fell prey to Internet love scams last year.

She wanted to be known only as Angie because her husband and children do not know about what happened.

The man claimed he was born in the United States but was living in Australia.

After he and Angie chatted for about two months, Angie’s birthday came along and the man said he wanted to send her a present.

First, he said she had to pay shipping fees, which came up to tens of dollars.

A week later, he called her to say that the present had been held by Singapore Customs and that she had to pay more money to have it released.

This came up to about $1,500.

“By then, I felt like something wasn’t right, how was it that I had to pay so much?” Angie said.

COMMON TACTIC

But the man told her he was sending her a bag with money inside and that the cash would be worth more than what she paid.

This is a common tactic used by scammers who target victims searching for love or friendship online.

Some claim to be sending parcels containing valuable items such as branded watches or bags.

Each time Angie hesitated about payment, she would get a call from someone claiming to be from Singapore Customs, pressing her for payment.

So she paid.

And paid.

And paid.

For over a month, the man kept giving her different excuses for the delay and she ended up paying a total of $20,000.

“Once, I missed the call, which said it came from a Singapore number. But when I called back, it was a Malaysia dial tone,” she said.

That was when she started to get suspicious and wanted out. She went to the police, but she has not told her husband and two teenage children.

“How would I know I could be so stupid. Ever since then, I try to stay off Facebook,” she said.

“Who out there who doesn’t know you would want to be your friend? In 2015, I was stupid. Now, I’m not stupid any more.”

BY THE
NUMBERS

Commercial crimes increased by 46.5 per cent overall, from 5,678 cases in 2014 to 8,329 cases in 2015. The greatest jumps came from crimes involving the Internet. Here is a breakdown of some of these figures.

Love scams

2015: 383

2014: 198

Credit-for-sex scams

2015: 1,137

2014: 66

E-commerce cheating

2015: 2,713

2014: 1,665

 

This story was originally published in The New Paper. For more stories like this, head to www.tnp.sg.