SINGAPORE - Living alone, and without friends and family to support her, a woman in her 80s transferred her entire life savings of about $450,000 to scammers impersonating officials from China.
She believed them so much that when officers from the Anti-Scam Division (ASD) approached her in person, she thought they were the scammers.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Felicia Seow, who is with the ASD, recalled how it took much time and persuasion for the victim to finally come around.
"Victims of scams are often trapped in their delusions," she said.
"Especially when it comes to the elderly, we need to really take time to gain their trust by talking and explaining to them step by step how they have fallen prey to a scam before they finally realise the truth."
ASP Seow said her heart went out to the elderly woman, who had no one to turn to.
Thankfully, she and her colleagues were able to claw back almost all of the funds and return it to the victim after she finally believed her and provided the police with the necessary details.
Another incident involved a victim who fell prey to scammers impersonating officials from the local authorities.
Inspector Eric Low, also with the ASD, said the scammers, believed to be based overseas, had ingrained deep in the victim's mind that no one else was to be trusted, making the police officers' work especially hard.
"We had even called the victim down physically for an interview, and she still didn't believe we were the real police," he said.
"She was so into the narrative weaved by the scammer that after the interview, she reported to the scammer that she was interrogated by bad people in a small room.
"In her head, I was the scammer, and the actual cheat was the real police."
The officers were sharing with the media on Thursday (Jan 27) the many challenges faced by officers working with the Anti-Scam Division.
ASP Lim Min Siang said their work goes beyond investigation and prosecution.
"We had an elderly victim who had lost quite a substantial amount of her life savings, and she naturally became distraught," he said.
"Through our interactions with her, we soon realised that she was starting to display suicidal tendencies."
ASP Lim and his colleagues provided her emotional support.
He said: "We offered her more victim care support, and walked her through that process, and eventually she managed to snap out of it, and now she's fine."
He added that as police officers, their main job is to protect life and property.
"Whenever we receive a report, our main responsibility is to investigate the criminal offence," he said.
"We also strive to recover the losses of victims. But the main thing is always to ensure that criminal justice is being served.
"If we can recover the money, it's a bonus for the victims."