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June 2, 2016
In Singapore, the relationship between love and money is a bit too close for comfort. First dates are often filled with excessive talk of careers and income, while a marriage proposal is usually a sign that it's time to pick up the keys to your BTO flat.
It's thus sadly ironic that more and more people here are losing money through love-related scams.
Here are four types of scams hot-blooded Singaporeans need to be wary of.
WeChat hooker scam
Users of WeChat, China's answer to WhatsApp, should know of the "find friends" function. Basically, the device supplies you with a list of random strangers in the vicinity, all of whom are also looking for connections.
You're then free to send messages to whomever you fancy based on their photos-and as expected, "whomever you fancy" usually means nubile young XMMs.
For some reason, WeChat has also become a hotbed of escorts looking for their next customer. What starts out as a harmless text conversation turns steamy when the women reveal that they're offering sexual services, and the men agree to meet them to do the deed.
But before meeting up, the girls ask for money, the most common request being to buy Alipay or iTunes credits. Some men are unsuspecting enough to pay multiple times before realising they've been duped. Usually this story ends with the victim being put in touch with a threatening male, presumably the "agent", who tries to intimidate him into parting with more cash.
Millions have been lost thanks to these WeChat scams. If you're hoping to rely on this app to find your life partner, maybe it's time to switch to Tinder instead.
Dating website scam
Just as the mostly male WeChat users have their pretty young girl scammers, lonely females on dating website have their dashing online lovers.
Internet love scams in which a wealthy stranger on a dating site builds a relationship with a lonely user, wins their trust and then asks for money are quite common. These are even more insidious than the WeChat scams since in many cases the hapless victims really do think they're in a relationship with the scammer. Obviously, they're also purportedly handsome and rich.
The scammers then ask to borrow a large sum of cash, just like the Nigerian princes who need help withdrawing their millions. Some ask their victims to participate in bogus investments. Some will claim they're sending a gift to the victim, who will then need to pay the "courier company" some money to retrieve it. Others will be kidnapped or land in hospital and need money to get help.
The amount of money people lose in these scams makes the WeChat scammers look like amateurs. Some people have reportedly lost tens of thousands and one woman even claims to have lost $250,000, according to the National Crime Prevention Council's Scam Alert website.
Nude video extortion scam
This rather steamy scam usually involves men being sent messages by attractive young women on social networking sites. The women will then lead them to believe that they're so attractive that they want them to perform a striptease on Skype.
They then record the video, play it back to the horrified guy and tell him that if he doesn't pay them a large sum of money, they'll ruin his reputation by posting it on porn and social media sites.
One of the scammers who's since been caught was a 17-year-old girl who together with her 22-year-old boyfriend managed to extort close to $100,000 from some poor guy.
If you're approached by a foreigner who wants your hand in marriage in order to get a visa and offers you money in exchange, don't think this is an easy way to make money, as the authorities are on the prowl for sham marriages.
Some of these marriages are backed up by meticulous details such as fake wedding photos. But even if the scammer reassures you that he or she will cover all bases, you can never be sure the ICA hasn't been tipped off about his or her shady activities.
Details over which you have no control can be a dead giveaway, such as if you're a 65-year-old man and your bride is a 21-year-old Vietnamese girl.
If you're caught, you can be fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 10 years.