Woman charged over love scams

A Malaysian woman believed to be involved in several Internet love scams was hauled to court yesterday after allegedly receiving $216,000 in ill-gotten gains.

Fong Bee Yeok, 38, was charged with five counts each of acquiring the money obtained through cheating, removing the cash from Singapore and transporting the amount across the Causeway without authorisation.

Those who want to carry more than $20,000 in cash out of Singapore have to give a "full and accurate report" to an authorised officer. Each charge involved between $34,000 and $48,000.

In Internet love scams, con artists befriend people on social media platforms before developing online relationships with them. They would then dupe the victims into transferring money to them, claiming this was needed for business loans or legal fees, for instance.

Fong's crime spree purportedly started on Sept 10, when she received $34,000 from someone named Ong Loke Boey at an eatery. Court documents did not reveal any details about Ong.

Fong allegedly transported the money across the Causeway into Johor at about 9.40pm that day.

She is said to have received money from Ong four more times before making similar trips to Malaysia between Sept 16 and 25.

On Tuesday, Fong told the court that she intends to plead guilty and will not be engaging a lawyer. She was offered bail of $30,000 and will be back in court on Dec 18.

Her case comes amid a rise in Internet love scams in the first six months of this year over the same period last year. According to the police, there were 349 reported cases of such scams between January and June, compared with 277 in the first six months of last year.

The police said in a statement on Monday: "To avoid falling prey to these scams, members of the public should be careful when befriending strangers online. They should also be wary when asked to send money to people whom they do not know."

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Woman charged over love scams'. Print Edition | Subscribe