Commentary: Caught in a bad romance? Guard your heart and wallet against love scams | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams

Despite repeated warnings, public education campaigns, and widespread news coverage, more and more Singaporeans are falling victim to love scams. 

The Singapore Police Force’s Annual Scams and Cybercrime Brief 2023, released last week, showed that love scams are on the rise, with 913 such cases seen in 2023 compared to 868 in 2022. Love scam victims in Singapore are also losing more money than before, with an average loss of S$43,677 seen in each case in 2023, up from S$41,200 in 2022.

We might think that only older folks fall prey to such tactics, but research has largely shown that younger demographics are just as susceptible. The police brief also revealed that 73 per cent of scam victims in the country were aged 49 and under.

Once characterised by crude email messages marked with bad language and cheap graphics, love scammers can now harness the power of advanced technology to use more sophisticated tactics. They craft elaborate personas and create compelling and convincing narratives that draw their victims in. 

The situation is poised to worsen this year: With generative artificial intelligence (AI) available to help bad actors craft ever more deceiving online profiles, it’s harder than ever to tell real from fake. 

With deepfakes, scammers can now even create dynamic high-resolution videos of a fake online lover. At present, there are no readily available tools to detect deepfake or AI-powered profiles, especially ones that are free or accessible to users.

Love scams exploit targets’ desires for love and companionship, which means that victims of such schemes suffer not only significant financial losses but emotional trauma as well. 


The traditional romance scam involves a scammer creating a fictitious identity on dating or social media platforms, using it to gradually build an emotional connection with a target. 

Once the target is “hooked”, the scammer usually concocts a fake crisis which requires financial assistance. While the target might not typically respond to requests for money from strangers, the emotional connection established by love scammers works to lower their usual defences. 

The newer “pig butchering” scam is named after the process of fattening a pig before slaughter. Scammers invest time and effort in building trust and affection with the victim, before introducing them to a seemingly lucrative investment opportunity. At first, the investments appear to generate impressive returns — thus enticing victims into investing even bigger amounts, before the scammer runs off with the spoils. 

Other common love scam tactics include catfishing (using stolen or fake identities to lure victims in) and phishing (disguising themselves as legitimate romantic interests to extract personal and financial information).


How can one spot a love scam? The answer lies in vigilance, awareness, and critical thinking.

1. Stay informed

Keep up with scam-related news and understand the new and common tactics scammers use. Being aware of the warning signs and red flags associated with love scams, so you can recognise potential threats.

2. Look out for fake profiles

Scrutinise profile pictures as well as any other photos they share. Use the reverse image search function on search engines to identify potentially stolen photos. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies or repetitive patterns in texture or lighting in images, which could be signs they were AI-generated. Tools like can help flag images that may be generated using artificial intelligence. 

Pay attention to the use of language, and determine if responses fit their “persona”. Do their anecdotes seem believable and natural? Fake profiles use overly poetic phrases, repetitive word choices or fill out profile prompts with responses that don’t make sense. 

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