Women claiming to be tourists ask passers-by for free meals and 'living expenses'

The New Paper
Nov 2, 2023

While beggars may not be an uncommon sight in Singapore, there seems to be a rising number of women outside MRT stations stopping people on the street and asking for free meals. 

In many of these cases, the women – primarily foreigners – become more demanding after a person offers them the first instance of charity, say observers. 

An elderly man, Li, told Shin Min Daily News about his recent encounter with two women who tried to get a free meal from him outside Bukit Gombak MRT station. 

"The women, who were in their 30s, said they were tourists and were supposed to fly home the next day. They told me they didn't have any money on them and hoped that I'd buy them a meal," said Li, who added that the women told him they were "not beggars". 

When Li, a retiree, wanted to bring them to a nearby stall for chicken rice, the duo saw a fast food restaurant and told him they wanted to eat there instead. 

"After I rejected them, they stopped outside a convenience store and said they wanted to buy drinks. I ended up spending about $5 buying two cans of fruit juice for them." 

Their requests didn't end there. After getting the drinks, the women asked Li for "living expenses". 

"I felt that was inappropriate, and I thought they were trying to scam me so I left. They ended up approaching another man for a free meal." 

When a Shin Min reporter visited the hawker stalls outside Bukit Gombak MRT station, a stall employee named Hannah said that, over the past year, it was common to see people asking for money in the area. 

"Sometimes they would ask for at least $10, and if the passers-by don't agree, they would harass them. Once, someone threatened to call the police, and the person ran away," said the 48-year-old. 

Another elderly man, surnamed Hong, told Shin Min that in June, he had three separate encounters with women asking for meals at Ang Mo Kio Central. 

The 63-year-old hawker, who would walk past the area at about 8pm every day, said the women were in their 20s, well-dressed and fluent in Mandarin. 

"They would tell me, 'I haven't had anything to eat all day and I'm starving, can I have some money to buy food?'" 

With the first woman, he wanted to bring her to a nearby market, but she wanted to go elsewhere to eat. As he didn't want to walk any further, he simply handed her $10. 

The second woman demanded that he buy her a drink on top of the meal he'd already bought her. Hong said that he walked away as she was about to ask him for more money.

"I wanted to take a photo of her, but she was quick to stop me the moment I took out my phone," said Hong. 

When he encountered a third woman, he told her: "I've already helped one of you, please don't ask me anymore."

Hearing this, the woman briskly walked away, leading Hong to suspect that the three women he encountered were in cahoots.

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