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The Straits Times
Jan 18, 2023
A mother of three was so in love with a man she met online that she surrendered more than $200,000 worth of her insurance policies and divorced her husband.
The 40-year-old woman believed her lover, who claimed to be a military doctor from the United States, needed the funds to pay his hospital bills after being shot by terrorists while on a mission in South Sudan.
Her husband discovered the affair and reported the money transfers to the police. But even when police officers told her she was being scammed, she refused to believe them until it was too late.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Aileen Yap from the police’s Anti-Scam Command talked about this case at a panel discussion during the Scaminar! ACT Against Scams event at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday. ACT stands for “Add, Check and Tell”.
The session was moderated by Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling.
DAC Yap said: “She believed when (her lover) recovered, he would come to Singapore and take care of the three children with her.”
DAC Yap said the children were 12, nine and two years old.
Over three months, police officers tried to convince the woman, an accountant, that she was a victim of a love scam.
They immediately recognised that the photographs the woman’s lover had sent, which he claimed were taken at a hospital, were heavily photoshopped.
DAC Yap said: “My officers spoke to her many times, but she just did not believe us.”
She finally accepted the truth after she noticed that the e-mails from the hospital used the same e-mail address that her lover used.
Although police officers were unable to prevent the initial transfer of more than $200,000, they recovered $170,000 of the losses by freezing the bank accounts to which the woman sent the funds.
DAC Yap said: “She faced more than financial losses. Her husband said they were unable to reverse their relationship. The three children suffered, and she borrowed from her friends and relatives. They might not get the money back.
“The impact the scam caused is really very devastating. We need to act against scams, to come together to add, check and tell.”
DAC Yap was referring to how the public can add security features to their devices, check for warning signs and tell the authorities and people around them about scams.
Other panellists included Ms Loretta Yuen, head of group legal and compliance at OCBC Bank; Mr Dan Yock Hau, assistant chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore; and Ms Grace Ann, chief executive of social enterprise Friendzone.
Ms Yuen said: “We have seen all education types (of scam victims). From illiterate folks to PhD holders. From students, hawkers and cleaners, to office workers. Even university professors and company chief executives. No one is spared.
“Scammers prey on hopes, dreams and fears. You want a better financial future, you want to find love and happiness, so we have love scams. Nobody wants to be in trouble with the law, so we have government impersonation scams.”
During the panel, the speakers also discussed the importance of remaining vigilant, with Ms Sun reminding the public not to fall for job scams, the most common variant in 2021.
She said: “Anytime you come across such an offer, always check, not only the signs of a scam, but also your own emotions.”
She said whenever people receive a phone call or message asking for their personal information or to send money, they can always check with the organisation involved, whether it is a bank, government agency or delivery company.
“You can also tell your family and friends about the latest scams so as to protect them. In the fight against scams, everyone can play a part,” she added.