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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Woman loses $1.2m (RM3.6m) in Internet love scam

SINGAPORE - It all started when she accepted a friend request on Facebook.

But it eventually made her $1.2 million poorer after she became a victim of a love scam.

Mary, an administrator in her 50s, lost all of her savings and ended up in debt. All names have been changed to protect the victim's identity.

Police said it was the biggest amount lost by an individual in a scam that has seen a surge since the start of the year.

April was the worst month, with $7.5 million pocketed by scammers.

In Mary's case, the scammer, Tom, claimed he was an American engineer and investor.

He approached Mary after adding her on Facebook in January this year.

Dazzled by promises of visits to Singapore, the mother of four developed a romantic relationship with him.

Mary said: "Even after many years of married life, I craved the companionship of a man because my husband was always working and hardly at home."

Her children are all grown-up and working.

About a month into the relationship, Tom told Mary he was coming here to live with her and he asked her to help link him up with local banks and hunt for apartments.

He then told Mary about an intermediary, a Nigerian called John, who would help him bring US$5 million (S$6.77 million) in cash to Singapore.

When Tom suggested Mary meet John to collect the money, John told her that he was unable to enter Singapore due to documentation issues.

John told Mary to go to Malaysia, where he claimed he was based.

"Because I felt like I was in a genuine relationship, I trusted anyone he trusted," Mary said.

John first asked Mary to transfer $6,000 into a Singapore bank account to get some documents processed, and she did.

He then told her that he was stuck at the airport and asked her to meet him in Malaysia to hand him $50,000.


It was to vouch that the purported US$5 million he was carrying in cash was "clean money".

Mary said she agreed because she was convinced the relationship she had with Tom was genuine.

She said she was even willing to leave her husband for him.

She added that Tom also told her the lock combination for the bags, which he claimed contained the money that John would show to her.

The same day, Mary met John in a hotel room in Malaysia, where he showed her a few bags.

"When I opened the bags, there were a lot of US dollars in it," she said.

"It was also the correct combination that (Tom) had given me, so I did not suspect anything and I handed over the $50,000 in cash."

It marked the start of John's continual requests for money and Mary would remit it each time.

After using up her savings, Mary resorted to taking out unsecured loans from banks, and her insurance.

Her family members found out about the bank loans and confronted Mary. She realised she had been a victim of an elaborate Internet love scam.

Her family members told her to make a police report. But she had already transferred a total of $1.2 million by then.

By Fatin Nabilah Awang

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