The number of internet love scam cases reported between January and March 2020 is a concern. Internet love scam cases increased by 33.6% (44 cases) to 175 cases between January to March 2020, from 131 cases in the same period last year. The total amount cheated decreased to at least S$6.6 million between January to March 2020, from at least S$7.1 million in the same period last year.
In these scams, victims typically befriended scammers on social media platforms or vice versa, and developed relationships with them. This was despite the victims having never met the other party face to face before. From January to April 2020, Facebook and Instagram have consistently remained as the two most common platforms that victims have been approached on.
In most cases, the scammers claimed to have sent parcels containing luxury items or large sums of money to the victims from overseas, but the parcels were detained by the authorities. The scammers would then request the victims to make payments on their behalf in order to secure the release of the items.
To further convince victims that their claim was legitimate, scammers have also been known to enlist the help of an accomplice, who would claim to be a staff from a courier company or government agency, and inform the victim that the parcels had been detained for inspection by the authorities, and that they were required to transfer money to local or foreign bank accounts for fictitious reasons such as taxes, fines or anti-money laundering charges. The victims were also threatened with the possibility of prosecution if they failed to send the money.
In other cases, the scammers would ask for money to be transferred electronically from the victims to help them overcome exigencies or financial hardships. Such requests would often take place multiple times, with the amount being requested often starting small, and progressively increasing as the scammers continued to build trust with the victims. Victims eventually realised that they were scammed, when the scammers became uncontactable. By then, they would often have already transferred large amounts of money to the scammers.
To avoid falling prey to these scams, members of the public are advised to be careful when befriending strangers online. They should also be wary when asked to send money to people whom they do not know or have not met in person before. If they are contacted by a stranger via the phone, demanding for payment to a bank account in relation to government fines or charges, remain calm and stop communicating with him immediately, because this is most probably a scam.
For more information on scams, members of the public can visit scamalert.sg or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1800-722-6688. Anyone with information on such scams may also call the Police hotline at 1800-255 0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.
SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
20 May 2020 @ 6:20 PM