SINGAPORE - He had joined dating app Badoo to meet new people, but little did he expect he would end up becoming a near victim of a credit-for-sex scam.
Mr Harry Wong (not his real name), 22, had received a match request in July from a 23-year-old woman who claimed to be a foreigner studying at a local university.
He found her youthful and cute, and decided to accept her request, Mr Wong told reporters last Friday (Aug 23).
They soon moved their conversations to the messaging platform Line and about a week later, the woman, who called herself Qiao Er, told Mr Wong that she was strapped for cash.
"She said she had to pay her school fees and had not enough money," recounted Mr Wong, who has just completed his national service and is waiting to start university.
"Then she said she could give me a massage at $100 for two hours, with 'special' services included."
Mr Wong said he was sympathetic and eventually agreed to the arrangement.
Qiao Er told him to meet her at Block 355 Sembawang Way on Aug 2 at 1.30pm.
When Mr Wong arrived at the meeting point, he received a call from Qiao Er, who asked him to transfer $100 via online payment platform Alipay that was available on an AXS machine at the block.
She said this was necessary for her to avoid being caught by police.
As Mr Wong was about to make the transfer, several police officers who were conducting public outreach on credit-for-sex scams approached him.
After speaking to full-time police national serviceman Keenan Tham, Mr Wong realised he almost became a victim of a scam. He was so engrossed with his phone that he did not notice the multiple police advisories pasted around the AXS machine.
Special Constable Corporal Tham, 22, told the media in the same interview that he and his colleagues had noticed Mr Wong was on the phone while logging on to Alipay at the machine nervously - typical indications of a victim of a credit-for-sex scam.
The police officer had been conducting public outreach with Sergeant Jacob Koh, 27, police NSF Dalton Chee, 19, and two other operationally ready police national servicemen.
They advised Mr Wong to ignore any calls from unknown numbers and delete the apps that were used by the suspected scammer to contact him.
Later that day, Mr Wong received a threatening phone call from a man who claimed to be Qiao Er's manager. The man said he would follow Mr Wong home and harass his family members if he did not transfer the money.
The police officers advised Mr Wong to ignore the phone call. He subsequently received a few missed calls from unknown numbers possibly linked to the suspected scammer, but the calls stopped after a few days.
Sergeant Koh said the typical modus operandi of credit-for-sex scams involves the transfer of credits through iTunes cards or Alipay.
"The amount may start off at $100 at first, but it will escalate. The scammers usually will give excuses to get you to transfer even more money," he added.
Reflecting on the incident, Mr Wong said: "Now that I think about it, I don't know what came over me. I don't even earn a lot of money, yet I foolishly accepted the offer."