Internet love scams in Singapore cost victims $33.1 million in 2020 | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

SINGAPORE – Love scams, in which fraudsters steal hearts and empty bank accounts, have remained a persistent problem in Singapore in the past decade.

They are believed to have first surfaced in 2008, and victims are cheated by someone with whom they have formed an online relationship with.

There were 822 love scam cases in 2020, a more than 13-fold increase from the 62 cases in 2011.

The amount cheated has also grown, from $2.3 million in total in 2011 to $12 million in 2015 and $33.1 million in 2020.

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said love scams are seductive because people innately crave companionship.

He said: “Some people find it harder to find love interests, especially during the pandemic, and scammers prey on this void that potential victims are looking to fill.” 

Dr Lim added that some of his patients fell for the ruse after scammers spent a lot of time gaining their trust.

“They think that scammers would not bother to get to know them over an extended period, so when they are shown a lot of care and concern, they believe it is a real relationship,” he said.

But it is e-commerce scams that consistently top the list with the most number of cases reported each year.

There were 3,354 cases reported in 2020, a 55 per cent increase from 2018.

In the first half of last year, $2.4 million was lost to e-commerce scams, with electronic goods and gaming-related items most commonly involved.

With e-commerce sales in Singapore expected to grow to US$10 billion ($13.4 billion) by the end of 2026, according to a recent report by Facebook and management consultancy Bain & Company, there are concerns the amount cheated would climb.

Mr Amos Tan, assistant director of Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Business, said the pandemic has driven many people to shop online, and e-commerce platforms are trying to retain customers with frequent promotions.

“The shift in our lifestyles has provided ample opportunities for scammers. E-commerce scams are not only expected to rise but also more variants will emerge,” he said.

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