SINGAPORE – Crooks masquerading as tycoons to dupe their victims seems more like Hollywood fare than real life but tell that to a Singapore woman who has lost her life savings after falling for such a scam.
Her losses – around $1.2 million – were even more painful because the 53-year-old had made a point to check out the conman who eventually ripped her off.
The saga began in late 2020 when Audrey, as she wants to be known, was looking for a buyer to pay $600,000 to take over her retail business in Singapore.
She thought she got lucky when one of her regular customers introduced her to a “rich factory owner” from China who appeared keen to buy her business.
They discussed the deal online because he said he could not come to Singapore due to Covid-19 restrictions but Audrey did careful checks.
She had a copy of his identity card and after doing a business registry check with the Chinese authorities, found that the factory was not only a real deal but had a paid-up capital of millions of dollars.
What she did not expect was he turned out to be an impostor from a major crime syndicate who eventually cheated her of $1.2 million in a cryptocurrency scam that was remarkably sophisticated.
Audrey says: “I was very upset when I found out that such cases were rampant in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States.
It’s shocking that these criminals are cheating people around the world and they are not afraid of the police because they feel that they are untouchable.”
She is among a growing list of victims worldwide who have fallen prey to a sophisticated foreign fund transfer scam that is believed to be run by syndicates based in Indochina.
Such crimes used to be commonly known as love scams because the conmen would target mostly lonely women by befriending them on social media. After gaining their trust, they would ask the victims to send them money by claiming they needed help to pay hospital bills or business debts.
But these cons have taken on a more sinister name – pig butchering scams – because the conmen tell their victims that cheating them is similar to dragging the helpless animals to the slaughterhouse and even the police cannot help them as their whereabouts and identities are not known.
Now, the scammers do not just use “love” as their weapon. They have added fake investment platforms linked to cyptocurrency to their arsenal to target not only housewives, but men and women who are keen to invest money.