SINGAPORE - The number of Internet love scams increased in the first three months of the year although the total amount of money stolen fell.
There were 175 cases recorded between Jan 1 and March 31, up 33.6 per cent from 131 in the same period last year.
However, the rip-offs totalled about $6.6 million, down from $7.1 million or so, the police noted on Wednesday (May 20).
Social media sites Facebook and Instagram were again the two most common platforms where victims were approached.
Scammers typically befriend people on social media sites and develop relationships despite never meeting face to face.
They also claim to have sent parcels of luxury items or large sums of money to the victims from abroad but that these parcels were detained by the authorities. Scammers then ask the victims to make payments on their behalf in order to secure the release of the items.
They also enlist an accomplice claiming to be a staff member of a courier company or government agency who tells the victim that the parcels have been detained for inspection.
Victims are tricked into transferring money to local or foreign bank accounts and some are also threatened with prosecution if they fail to send the funds.
In other cases, the scammers ask for money to be transferred electronically from the victims to help them overcome financial hardship.
Such requests often take place several times, with the amounts being requested starting small and progressively increasing as the scammers continue to build trust with the victims.
Victims eventually realise that they have been ripped off when the scammers become uncontactable, but by that time, large amounts of money would have already been transferred.
The police urged the public to be careful when befriending strangers online and be wary if asked to send money to someone they do not know.
They should also immediately stop communicating with anyone who contacts them and asks for payments to a bank account in relation to government fines or charges.
Anyone with information on scams can contact the police on 1800-255-0000 or on the I-Witness website.