Scammer impersonates Aileen Tan's husband and pesters her for money: 'I was so confused'

Lim Ruey Yan
The Straits Times
November 2, 2023

Aileen Tan has local horror movie Confinement to thank for distracting her long enough and preventing her from falling for a scam.

The 57-year-old local actress disclosed on social media on Tuesday that she was watching the film, which stars Rebecca Lim and Cynthia Koh, in the cinema when she received a WhatsApp message purportedly from her husband, Hong Kong-born director Gerald Lee.

Tan posted a screengrab of the messages between her and the impersonator with the caption: “Scam alert.”

She added that Lee’s phone had been hacked and instructed her followers not to transfer any cash to the scammer’s account.

She wrote on Instagram that the scammer had asked her to transfer money to a bank in Hong Kong, but she did not pay attention to the message as she was watching the movie.

“He called me ‘wife’ and asked me if I had HK$10,000,” Tan recounted to Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao. “He said he bought something online and wanted me to help him pay for it first, and that he would pay me back in cash.”

The other party then sent an account number of Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong, and asked her to transfer the money.

Tan said she could not remember how to transfer money to an overseas bank account, so she replied to her “husband” that she would handle it later. 

The other party then asked her to do so before 6pm.

“I thought it was strange,” she said. “My husband was obviously at work, so why was he suddenly so anxious to ask me to transfer money?”

She later received a WhatsApp voice message from Lee, who told her not to transfer money to anyone because his sister in Hong Kong had also received the text messages from the scammer.

“I was confused,” she said. “He asked me to transfer money and then told me not to do so.”

Tan later posted a screengrab on Instagram of a WhatsApp chat between her and the scammer, who threatened her with “divorce” – to which she replied “OK” after figuring out the truth.

She checked her husband’s phone after meeting him and could not find the WhatsApp conversation requesting the transfer of money. 

The couple reported the matter to WhatsApp and filed a police report on Tuesday night.

Tan suspects that Lee’s WhatsApp account could have been stolen, as he had once used his work computer to connect to the Web version of WhatsApp and may have logged into a fake site.

“Fortunately, my sister-in-law and I were not conned,” she told Zaobao. “This is the first time I encountered something like this. The scammers’ ruses have become more advanced.”

The Straits Times

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