Some years ago, I was nearly a victim of an Internet love scam but I was lucky to get away without losing any money (Nearly $1 billion lost by scam victims in S'pore since 2016, Jan 31).
A man had contacted me via Facebook. He introduced himself as a British widower with a 10-year- old daughter. He said he was a graduate of a British university, and was working on board a ship as a marine engineer.
Over the next two months, we communicated via e-mail and phone calls. After about two months, he e-mailed me to say his ship had been attacked by pirates and that he urgently needed to send important documents. He asked for my home address so that he could forward this package to me for safekeeping.
Although initially alarmed, my instincts told me this incident was too incredulous. I could not find any news of the described attack.
My advice to others is to look out for subtle red flags to try and determine if you're being scammed.
First, be wary if there's sketchy or inconsistent personal information. His social media accounts looked to be recently set up, the pages were thin on content, with no other friend connections. There were only a few photos of a man standing outside a building in a British university campus.
There were also inconsistencies. In one e-mail, his interest was playing the saxophone. In another, it was the piano. And his favourite food kept changing.
Second, look out for changes in writing, speaking styles, behaviour or demeanour. His writing and speaking style varied. Some e-mail looked as if they were written by someone else. When we spoke on the phone, there was none of the eloquence found in his writing.
While researching, I came across scamalert.com. That was when I saw, word for word, paragraphs in his e-mail that had been used in previous scams.
Third, do not divulge sensitive information like your address, IC or financial information.
E-mail and phone calls can be blocked and social media accounts can be shut down but one's residential address or confidential information cannot be changed easily.
Fourth, watch out for a sudden dramatic incident. Pay attention to what you are being asked to do for the other person. If the request sounds legally or morally dubious, too urgent, or too dramatic to be believable, avoid fulfilling the demand. Do not panic, and take your time to verify the details.
Cut ties immediately.