SINGAPORE - She was an aspiring entrepreneur who enjoyed doing brisk business online.
Every day, 12-year-old Stella (not her real name) would strike up conversations with strangers who were eager to find out more about the items she was selling on online marketplace Carousell.
These were usually items such as game cards, stationery or old clothes, which helped her make about $50 a month.
In March this year, her parents got a new iPhone and gave her their old iPhone 4. Eager to make a quick buck, she listed it for sale online.
Within a few days, a user who said he was a secondary school student offered to buy the phone for $30 more than the price she listed.
It was a painful lesson for her because she felt violated and her phone was gone.
MR CHONG EE JAY, manager at Touch Cyber Wellness, who helped to counsel Stella (not her real name)
They exchanged numbers and arranged to meet at a void deck near her house shortly after.
When she arrived, she saw that he was not a student but a man in his 20s who dyed his hair gold.
He brushed away her questions on his identity, saying he was just there to buy the phone.
As he checked the phone, he began making small talk and sexual advances towards her.
For instance, he started holding her hands and asked her if she would like to hang out with him.
When she refused, he threatened to leave with her phone. So she followed him to a nearby McDonald's, thinking she would go off after attempting to get her phone back.
TIPS FOR CHILDREN MEETING SOMEONE THEY GOT TO KNOW ONLINE
1. Meet the person in a public place such as an MRT station or shopping centre, where others have a full view of you.
2. Get a trusted friend to accompany you.
3. Keep your parents updated on your whereabouts and who you are meeting.
4. Take a photo or video of the meeting as it may serve as evidence, or help in identifying the perpetrator if things go wrong.
5. If the person makes you feel uncomfortable, talks about sex or tries to make you do something you are unwilling to do, walk away. You should block or ''unfriend'' this person online later and tell your parents about the exchange.
Along the way, he fondled her and she decided to alert a passer-by about her situation. When the passer-by turned back and shouted at him, he took off with the phone.
Emotionally distraught, the girl went to school and spoke to the school counsellor.
Touch Cyber Wellness manager Chong Ee Jay, who related Stella's story to The Straits Times, also helped with the counselling.
"It was a painful lesson for her because she felt violated and her phone was gone," he said.
Stella still sells her goods on Carousell, but she now makes it a point to meet the buyers in public places, with her parents accompanying her.
Mr Chong said: "Sometimes young people have promising ideas, and we should not short-change their learning when engaging with new technologies. But proper guidance from mentors is essential."