27-year-old woman loses $5k in 3 weeks to scammer on Facebook's dating service

Sarah Koh
The Straits Times
October 24, 2023

What 27-year-old Ms Ong thought was blossoming love after an online encounter on Facebook’s dating service, turned out to be a scam that saw her lose $5,000 in three weeks.

The Malaysian woman, who works as an administrative officer in Singapore, told The Straits Times that she was approached by the man on Facebook Dating in February.

The man, who claimed to be a group manager at e-commerce and gaming firm Sea Limited, added Ms Ong as a Facebook friend and started to message her regularly over the course of three weeks.

“From time to time, he would talk about this investment programme, and after a while he said I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to invest,” said Ms Ong, who only wanted to be known by her surname.

It was supposedly an exclusive scheme only open to those with invitation codes, she said.

The man sent her a link to a website where with options to invest projects such as Build-To-Order flats, non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrency.

“I invested $2,100 the first time in early March, and received $315 in profits within an hour,” said Ms Ong, adding that she was promised high returns.

Thinking that the scheme was legitimate, she invested another $5,000, only to be told that she had to invest additional funds in a “special project” that the company was running, before she could get her cash back.

When she told the man that she had no more money, he told her to borrow from friends and family.

“He suddenly turned on me and said that if I could not raise money for the project within a certain amount of time, I would have to pay a penalty fee,” said Ms Ong, who realised then that she had been scammed.

She made a police report and froze her bank account. The police confirmed that a report was lodged and investigations are ongoing.

“I blamed myself for what happened, for making such a low-level mistake,” she said.

She went on to post about what happened on Facebook and Chinese social media app Xiaohongshu, and said she has received messages from more than 30 other victims who were also allegedly scammed by people posing as Sea employees. One woman claimed she had lost $100,000, she added.

ST was unable to verify the number of victims who were duped by these scammers.

A Sea Limited spokesman told ST the company is aware of scams where criminals impersonating its employees and invite people to invest in bogus schemes through unauthorised apps and websites.

“Please note that Sea does not engage in such solicitation, and these messages are not affiliated with our company,” said the spokesman, urging the public to be vigilant.

The public to report any such scams or related suspicious messages to feedback@sea.com, and the authorities, he added.

Meanwhile, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao also reported a similar scam on Thursday, where a 29-year-old civil servant was duped by a man who claimed to work for real estate company GuocoLand.

The woman told Zaobao that they would talk on the phone for at least an hour every day, and he later persuaded her to invest in fake schemes.

She reportedly invested $3,000 before the scammer tried to persuade her to invest another $7,000 to become a “silver member” to earn higher returns.

Feeling something was amiss, she then stopped investing. Zaobao reported that she was able to get her money back, although it did not but did not specify how she managed to do so.

A GuocoLand spokesman told ST that the website which the woman accessed has been taken down, and said it did not belong to the firm or its subsidiaries.

“Members of the public are advised to exercise caution and vigilance due to the rising incidence of scams and fraud,” said the spokesman.

He added that the public can verify any information through GuocoLand’s website, www.guocoland.com, or e-mail contact@guocoland.com.

The Straits Times

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