Love stories exist in many kinds.
For instance, there’s the Romeo and Juliet kind, which culminates in a death-death situation.
There’s also the Crash Landing On You archetype, that pits our star-crossed lovers together after a series of crash-worthy challenges.
And then there’s the Online Scam version…
A love story which is for the most part, hopelessly one-sided and horrendously heartbreaking.
For the scammed party.
Not Only Was S’pore Woman Scammed By Online Lover, She Was Also Turned Into A Money Mule
According to The Straits Times, Ms Cassandra Tan, a clerk in her 50s, had not only been cheated of around $80,000 by her online “lover”, but also been deceived into becoming a money mule for a scammer, laundering a whopping $13,500 on his behalf.
Certainly a tough pill to swallow, considering how the love story had all the promise of a well-written Korean drama. At the start anyway.
Apparently, Ms Tan first met the man on social media platform Facebook in mid-2018. He professed to be a 59-year-old American Chinese businessman working for “Keppel”, and allegedly wanted to visit her in Singapore.
But things soon began adopting a darker tone. The man claimed that his money had been confiscated by the CIA, and that he and his staff were “trapped at Customs and needed money to get out”.
He also sent her images of “himself” in hospital, pretending to be facing serious medical emergencies.
Now, any logical person would probably tell you that everything thus far has been nothing short of shady. After all, had the man’s tales grown any taller, he would probably be calling himself Tom Cruise before long.
But love isn’t always logical. And for Ms Tan, it seems that her affection has pretty much thrown all logic out of the window.
“I started falling in love with him. I also took pity on him and wanted to help,” Ms Tan said.
Over the course of one year, she transferred $80,000 of her savings to him in multiple transactions stretching from $2,000 to $5,000. And her ‘ordeal’ wasn’t even over yet.
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Though this time, the nature of the scam has taken an even more twisted route.
Unwittingly Assisting In A Money Laundering Scam
In May 2020, the man reportedly asked Tan to let him use her account to purchase bitcoin credits.
He then made three transfers of $5,000 to her account between May and June and informed her that she could keep $500 per transaction…
As long as she bought $4,500 bitcoin credits on his behalf.
“Every transaction, I kept $500 for my own usage. As he owed me so much money, I thought it is only right for me to keep $1,500 for myself,” Ms Tan said.
The Singapore Police Force eventually intervened when suspicious transfers were detected between Ms Tan’s account and other local bank accounts. Later on, she would discover that she had not only been the victim of an Internet love scam but had also been made use of to launder illegally attained monies.
Incidentally, Ms Tan was one of 2,500 people investigated between January and August this year for performing money laundering services. In Ms Tan’s situation, her case has since been concluded, and she has been issued an advisory.
“When scammers forge relationships with their targets and build trust over time, it becomes easy to get someone to give up their bank information or transfer funds,” said Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Jane Lim from the Commercial Affairs Department.
For acting as a money mule to abet a criminal’s criminal activities, one can face a fine of up to $500,000, a jail term of up to 10 years, or both.
Apparently, there have also been cases where money mules operated from within a larger network, sometimes with different layers of mules to make transactions seem legitimate.
According to The Straits Times, one such case goes all the way back to 2017. Between March and April 2017, a 26-year-old Singaporean man known only as “Nelson” had used his bank account to receive $36,400 – via 27 bank transfers and cash deposits.
He had been roped in to perform money laundering services after attaining sexual services from an unidentified woman on online classified website Locanto, and went on to make multiple cash transfers for a man he believed was her “boss”.
In total, he converted $34,489.25 into Alipay credits for this “boss” over 63 transactions. “Nelson” then held the balance for his own personal use.
He was eventually sentenced to 10 months in jail.
But Then Again, Not Everyone Lets Love Cloud Their Eyes
According to Wanbao, a 61-year-old ex-police officer, whom we should call Mdm Lim, got to know a handsome Taiwanese from Facebook.
They chatted for almost an hour every night, and the scammer did everything in the scammer’s playbook: he continued to pepper Mdm Lim with sweet nothings and even posted images of them together in Facebook, saying that she’s his wife.
And finally, on 15 September 2020, the scammer revealed his true colours: he wished to borrow money from Mdm Lim.
During a conversation, he claimed that there was a fire in the oil rig he worked in, and even sent an image over to prove his claims. He then requested to borrow SGD $7,500 to buy a piece of new equipment.
But Mdm Lim did not entertain his request.
See, despite the love flag dangling in her eyes, Mdm Lim is wise enough to prioritise logicality over love.
Though well, being an ex-police officer probably helped. A lot.
Do Not Get Scammed… In More Ways Than One
Loneliness may get pretty stifling, but you should always make sure that the handsome guy/ pretty girl chatting you up on Facebook (or any other social media platform) is genuine and not just after your money.
After all, you deserve way better than that.
So learn to guard yourself against such tactics.
You can read more about it here.
This Singapore love story set in the 90s shows you why you should never wait for tomorrow. Watch it without crying: