Credit for sex scams: 53 reports in 16 days

The first 16 days of the month 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, police said yesterday.

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 meeting "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 victims to buy gift cards or online shopping credits such as iTunes gift cards or Alipay Purchase Cards before they can meet 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.

Most scammers use Chinese-sounding names and target Mandarin-speaking victims but some scammers have switched to using English names instead.

There were 779 cases of credit-for-sex scams last year, a 33.8 per cent decrease from the 1,177 cases in 2015, said police.

Members of the public are advised to call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 if they have any information on these scams, or dial 999 if they need urgent police assistance. The police also advised the public to take the following precautions:

•Be wary of strangers who befriend you online.

•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.

Lydia Lam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Credit for sex scams: 53 reports in 16 days'. Print Edition | Subscribe