SINGAPORE - The first 16 days of March saw at least 53 credit-for-sex scam cases reported to the police, with victims losing at least $304,000 through such scams from the start of the year, the police said in a news release on Wednesday (March 22).
The victims are usually men, who fall for the scammers through social media platforms such as WeChat, Locanto and OkCupid.
After getting to know their victims, the scammers would communicate with them through phone calls and online messaging.
The next step is a meet-up "in person", but the scammer would not show up.
Instead, the victims would receive a call from someone claiming to be the boss or agent of the scammer.
This person would convince the victim to buy gift cards or online shopping credits such as iTunes or Alipay Purchase Cards before they can meet up or date the scammer. Sexual favours are also dangled in some cases.
Victims are directed to buy the Alipay Purchase Cards through AXS machines or iTunes gift cards from convenience stores, before transferring the credits to the scammers' e-mail accounts. Additional purchases are often forced on the victims, who are sometimes threatened if they refuse to comply.
Most scammers use Chinese-sounding names and target Mandarin-speaking victims, but recently some scammers have switched to using English names instead.
The police previously said there were 779 cases of credit-for-sex scams last year, a 33.8 per cent decrease from 1,177 cases in 2015.
The public is advised to call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 if you have any information on these scams, or dial 999 if you need urgent police assistance.
The police also advised the public to take the following precautions to avoid falling prey to such scams:
- Be wary of strangers who befriend you online, such as through social messaging platforms.
- Do not provide personal details when engaging with other users online.
- Do not share your payment receipts, e-mails or purchase cards containing details such as PIN numbers that can be used to redeem online credits.