Sometimes we confidently tell ourselves that we would be able to spot a scammer from a mile away. We know not to do silly things like go into chat rooms and talk to random strangers who could dupe us out of our hard earned cash.
But sometimes, as much as you know you shouldn’t be talking to strangers online, you might just fall into a trap unknowingly.
Facebook friends first
When Janice (not her real name) started running her online business from home to help with household finances, she would often post her ads in mummy groups on Facebook.
Within minutes of posting, she would often receive friend requests and people commenting “PM” on her post. (PM means private message).
One day, she received a Facebook friend request from a male stranger, claiming to be a single dad wanting to buy her products.
She was curious to know more about the man because she saw a “handsome, middle-aged, pan-Asian” looking profile photo. Coupled with the fact that he was single, the mother of two accepted his friend request.
It started off innocently
“He would ask me about my products and ask me to call him,” she admitted.
But he ended up not buying anything from her. However, at that point, it was too late. They had already formed a connection through messaging day and night via the social media platform.
He told her later on that he was living in London, though he was originally from Singapore.
Over the next six months, the pair would call each other, often at weird hours due to “time difference”. It was convenient for Janice, who would take these calls long after her husband and kids had gone to bed.
The man spoke with a slight British accent, which Janice loved. She soon fell head over heels in love with the man who promised her with a dreamy life in Europe.
“He would tell me that he loved me, and call me ‘babe’. He would ask me everything about myself and make me feel like I was special” said Janice.
“He asked for my address”
No matter what time of day, the man would respond to her with sweet texts. But last month, the man asked Janice for her home address, claiming he wanted to send her a gift.
“I was reluctant to do so because my husband would see. But I decided to give him my home address anyway, and tell my husband once the package arrived, that it was some online shopping or a returned item from a customer,” she said.
Her “gift” was sent out promptly, or so he claimed. He had packed her a gift box with jewellery from Tiffany, branded goods from Prada and even 25,000 in pounds.
But there was a catch.
“Goods and services tax”
He told her that she would have to pay a “goods and services tax” upon the arrival of her gift. But of course, he had included enough cash in the box for her to recover the tax. She would just have to pay for it upfront first.
Shortly after that, Janice received a call from the courier service asking her to pay the tax of $3,000 and it was to be transferred to an “official” bank account.
She complied willingly.
But a few days later, a “member from the customs department” called Janice telling her that they found the undeclared cash and she would be arrested if she didn’t pay the “fine” of $8,000.
“I told him that I was really scared and didn’t know what to do. He apologised profusely for putting me in the situation but coaxed me into paying the “fine” so I wouldn’t get arrested,” said Janice, adding that he promised he would wire transfer cash her way to reimburse her for the trouble.
He even sent her a screenshot of the transfer.
Still believing he was the real deal, Janice transferred the $8,000 to the “customs department”.
The final straw
The unsuspecting Janice continued conversations with her online lover and he continued reeling her deeper in. But the final straw that broke the camel’s back was when another “representative” called her a week later, requesting Janice to head down to the customs office with yet another $5,000 to collect her parcel.
It was then that she knew she was part of a scam and decided to file a police report. Though she was heartbroken, she blocked the man from contacting her on Facebook.
To date, Janice says that this is the worst experience of her life and she couldn’t tell her husband about it.
How to avoid online love scam tricks
- Do not “friend” strangers on social media platforms.
- Do not transfer money to bank accounts without verifying the account numbers with local authorities such as the central bank.
- Report any suspicious activity to police immediately.
- Always talk to friends or family members about what you’re going through to prevent being targeted.
- Do not share personal information about yourself such as phone numbers and addresses.
Beware of online love scam tricks and stay vigilant all the time!
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