SINGAPORE: Malaysian nurse Pan Han Ni, 34, met a man on an online dating app, and in just a week, he scammed her of S$77,000 (RM254,000).
She said the man continually pressured her to put her money into an investment platform in March, which she did and now regrets it.
More foreigners are falling victim to scams in Singapore, with the amount of money lost more than doubling from S$40.4 million (RM140 million) in 2020 to S$88 million (RM290 million) in 2021, police figures revealed.
The number of cases involving foreign victims also increased from 3,431 in 2020 to 5,210 in 2021.
This comes amid an overall spike in scam cases in Singapore, with victims losing at least $633.3 million in 2021, compared with $268.4 the previous year.
Police told The Sunday Times that the top three scams that affected foreigners in 2021 were phishing scams, job scams and e-commerce scams.
Said Pan: “He made me feel very guilty for not trusting him. He also said I was being selfish, as the extra income (from the investment) could benefit my family and friends.”
Stressed, she gave in to his requests, and, over a few days, deposited all her savings worth about S$37,000 into the fake platform.
Even then, the scammer told Pan to borrow money from her friends, so they, too, could reap the profits of the investment.
She borrowed about S$40,000 from friends to invest and realised it was all a hoax when she asked to borrow money from the scammer and he became evasive.
After making a police report, she broke down and contemplated suicide. Her funds have not been recovered to date.
Pan was able to get back on her feet with the support of family and friends who reassured her she could take her time to pay them back.
She said: “It was a really traumatic experience and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through it. I’m working hard to make the money back and I’m less trusting towards strangers now.”
N. Srinivasan, director of Hoh Law, said his firm has seen migrant workers seeking legal help for scam-related issues.
He said: “Some of them get a call from a scammer claiming to be from the Ministry of Manpower, asking them for their personal details. If they do not give it, the scammers will threaten to cancel their work permits, which is what the workers are most afraid of.”
Ethan Guo, general manager of Transient Workers Count Too said migrant workers are also affected by job scams.
He said: “When migrant workers seek new employment, they may turn towards unverified postings on Facebook, many of which turn out to be fake.
“These job ads promise a job placement and ask for an upfront ‘agent fee’. The ‘agents’ then become uncontactable after payment is made.”
Richard Siaw, founder of R.S. Solomon law firm, said that since the end of 2020, he has seen more foreign clients falling victim to scams involving the impersonation of officials from China.
In such scams, victims typically receive a call from scammers claiming to be from government agencies such as the Ministry of Health.
Their calls would then be transferred to several parties before victims speak to a “Chinese official” who claims they are under investigation for offences such as money laundering.
Siaw said scammers prey on a victim’s fear of breaking the law, and foreigners who are unfamiliar with Singapore’s systems may have difficulties ascertaining the identity of the caller.
Yusfiyanto Yatiman, who is a partner with the white-collar crime practice at Rajah & Tann Singapore law firm, said he has seen foreign clients seek legal assistance for scams for three broad reasons.
First, they had fallen victim to a scam; second, they were involved in scam operations; and third, criminal proceeds of the scam had passed through their bank accounts without their knowledge.
He said: “In the case of victims, we will guide and act for them in terms of legal assistance for the recovery of monies, but it is usually very difficult when funds have already been transferred.” – The Straits Times/ANN