She thought she had found love but ended up losing more than $22,000 in a month.
Ms Suzannie (not her real name), who has a disability, received a friend request on Facebook in April from a "Troy Williams". He claimed to be a soldier from the United States recuperating in India after being injured in Syria.
"At first I didn't want to accept his friend request, but he talked to me and wrote me poems everyday," she said. He also called her his wife.
The 44-year-old photocopier operator thought she had found her "true love". Instead, he started asking her for money and she lost her savings of $3,000. She also borrowed $19,000 from friends, who still do not know what she used the money for.
Police statistics show there were 82 cases of "love scams" involving about $3.1 million between January and June. In the same period last year, there were 22 such cases, involving $1.7 million.
Such Internet love scams first surfaced in 2008 and involved women victims in their 40s to 60s. In most cases, cheats start by befriending their victims on social media before charming their way into their lives.
These conmen send a friend request and lay the trap by talking to their victims every day, with the scammer playing the ever-attentive partner or sweet-talking their victims into falling in love with them.
Then, they will play the pity card by claiming to be in trouble with the law or to have problems with their health.
In another variation, the cheat claims to have mailed a present to the victim and asks the victim to make payment to secure the release of the parcel, purportedly detained by Customs.
Other cheats try to bait their victims with "business ventures", promising them lofty titles such as managing director of a company.
In Ms Suzannie's case, the scammer charmed her with promises of marriage before playing the pity card. She spoke to him for a month online before he told her he had no access to his accounts.
He asked her for money to pay for surgery, his adopted son's school fees and birthday presents.
Ms Suzannie resisted at first, but gave in after he promised to marry her when he was well enough to travel to Singapore.
She said: "Each time I said I didn't have money, he asked me to borrow from my friend. I wanted to help him because he begged me. He said he loved me."
Ms Suzannie lives with her parents, brother and her three children from two previous marriages in a three-room Housing Board flat in Jurong West.
In one month, she sent cash amounts of between $185 and $12,600 to various addresses, on top of a laptop and two mobile phones, including a Samsung Note 3, for his birthday.
When she stopped sending money to "Troy" because she could not afford it any more, he admitted that he had tricked her, and disappeared.
Ms Suzannie reported the case to the police last month.
She said: "I still believe in love, that's why I got cheated. But now I'm scared of men."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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