Internet love scam

Retiree left $8,000 poorer over branded bag 'present'

The woman was told that her bag was at customs and she had to give money to an agent to get it.
The woman was told that her bag was at customs and she had to give money to an agent to get it. PHOTO: ST FILE

A 51-year-old retiree thought she had made her first overseas friend when a man sent her a friend request on Facebook.

He claimed he was born in the United States but living in Australia, and they chatted for two months on social media.

When her birthday came along, he told her that he had mailed her a present - a branded bag.

"I didn't suspect anything at first," said the mother of two, who declined to be named. "It was only after I started giving money that I did. He told me it (the bag) was at the Customs and I had to give money to an agent to get it."

This is a common tactic used by scammers who target victims searching for love or friendship online. Some claim to be sending parcels containing valuable items such as branded watches or bags.

The victim soon felt something was amiss, suspecting the "agent" she called on a Singapore number was not actually in the country.

"The dial tone sounded like I was calling someone in Malaysia," she told The Straits Times. She lost around $8,000 in total in about a month and finally made a police report in August last year. "I don't know how he found me. I felt that he was a friend and we just chatted online. I gave him the money but until now, I have not seen any bag."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Retiree left $8,000 poorer over branded bag 'present''. Print Edition | Subscribe