It’s no secret that scams have been on the rise in recent years. In 2021, approximately 23,000 scam cases were reported. In 2022, this number rose to more than 31,000.
And now, from the first half of 2023 alone, we’re already at 22,339 reported scam cases.
There are several culprits for the rise of scams, the most prominent of late being malware scams. However, this doesn’t mean that other scams have ceased to exist.
A 65-year-old woman lost $1 million of her savings after trusting a fake Facebook friend. Here’s what you need to know.
65-Year-Old Woman Scammed By Fake Facebook Friend; Loses Over $1 Million in 15 Days
We’ve all received Facebook friend requests from strangers before, but not all of us accept them and humour them when they message us.
However, the same can’t be said for one 65-year-old Singaporean retiree.
According to the Straits Times, last year, the retiree received a Facebook friend request from a stranger named Alvin, who claimed to be the Singaporean chief executive of an interior design firm in Britain.
Alvin also claimed that he was retiring soon, and the only roadblock still standing in his way was his final project, a hotel in London.
And apparently, he would need the 65-year-old retiree’s help for it.
Yes, you read that right. A distinguished chief executive officer requires the help of a Singaporean retiree he’s barely acquainted with, whom he probably found from a random, quick search on Facebook.
At this point, the red flags are raised for most of us—the guy’s probably a scammer. When the 65-year-old retiree first received Alvin’s messages, she was also apprehensive about the legitimacy of Alvin’s claims.
Unfortunately, Alvin is quite the auntie killer.
He told the retiree that he needed her to act as a middleman to facilitate payments for him. He claimed he had to procure materials from a company in Sabah for his project but could not speak Mandarin.
In return for helping him, the retiree would be well-compensated with hundreds of thousands of dollars—he even furnished a few “bank transfer” documents as “proof” of payment.
Ah, yes… the ultimate “auntie killer” move. We’re surprised he didn’t throw in a “chio bu” in conversations with her.
The 65-year-old decided to trust Alvin and ended up losing over $1 million in savings.
Let’s take a closer look at how it all happened—scammer handbook style.
Step 1: Gaining the Victim’s Trust
So, you’re a scammer who reached out to a potential victim online, but they’re apprehensive about your credibility. What can you do?
Well, why not promise them compensation and send over a few forged bank transfer payments as proof of such payment?
That’s precisely what Alvin did.
He sent over several forged transfer statements from the British bank Barclays, claiming that he had transferred her monies to cover the payment she would have to make for his “materials from Sabah”.
The scammer also reassured the 65-year-old that these monies would be credited to her within two to four days.
But as a scammer, that’s not the end yet. Your next sub-step is to pray that your victim overlooks the haphazard formatting in your forged transfer statements.
Fortunately for Alvin, the Singaporean retiree didn’t catch the signs of the fake transfer statements.
Different font sizes were used across the transfer statements, and the formatting of the dates was the furthest thing away from uniform—we have “Sep 04”, “Sep 5”, and “Sep 07”.
Lo and behold, your sketchy forgery job has flown under the radar of your victim, and you have now successfully gained the victim’s trust.
Step 2: Request Payments, But Split Payment into A Million Separate Transfers
Now that the 65-year-old retiree was in Alvin’s hand, she acceded to all of Alvin’s requests despite having yet to receive the alleged deposits that Alvin made to her account.
So, Alvin moved to the next step in the scammer’s handbook: to request payments from the victim, splitting the payment into a million separate transfers.
First, Alvin told the retiree that he needed her to make payments for additional fees such as shipping and taxes—the 65-year-old listened and made 22 transfers of at least $22,000 each.
Next, she made a transfer of $50,000 at Alvin’s request. Yet, at this stage, she was already beginning to feel the strain on her finances.
She had to borrow $10,000 from her 30-year-old son, take out money from her CPF account, and take a bank loan of $24,000 to make these payments.
Step 3: Ask for More Payments By Claiming to be in Crisis
Once you’ve exhausted the excuses you can make for asking your victim to transfer money to you, it’s time to play the sympathy card.
Or, in Alvin’s case, he played the “I’m detained at the airport” card.
On 20 September, the retiree received a phone call from a Malaysian number informing her that Alvin was detained at the airport by Malaysian authorities for having too much cash.
Sigh… A problem that most of us would never have.
Alvin also told the 65-year-old the same story, and the 65-year-old believed it. He then asked her to make $98,000 worth of payments (split into a $40,000 transaction and a second $58,000 transaction) so that Malaysian authorities could clear him.
Well, we knew that the occasional 50 ringgit comes in handy when you’re stopped on the highways in Malaysia, but $98,000 for detention at the airport? That’s new.
Fortunately, at this point, the retiree’s 30-year-old son stepped in to stop her, knowing that this was likely a scam. If he didn’t do so, the 65-year-old was about to approach her 32-year-old daughter for money to fund this $98,000 transaction.
Step 4: If the Cat’s Out of the Bag, Ghost Your Victim
The cat’s out of the bag. How now, brown cow?
The handbook’s answer is this: “Ghost” your victim. Disappear off the face of the earth. Perhaps live in the jungles.
And Alvin did that too (well, not living in the jungles, but you get the point).
When the retiree attempted to confront him, she was ignored—phone calls and messages went unanswered.
This scam works a lot like the “love scams” that were prominent a couple of years ago, except that there isn’t the element of love in this Singaporean retiree’s case.
You can find out more about the mechanics of a love scam here:
Police Investigations Ongoing; Banks to Assist in Investigations
The Singaporean retiree lost over $1 million of her savings to this fake Facebook friend, “Alvin”.
She has since filed two police reports. Investigations are currently ongoing.
The good news is that the four banks through which the retiree’s transactions passed, including UOB, Standard Chartered, DBS Bank, and OCBC Bank, will assist in these investigations.
“We have strong security measures in place to monitor suspicious transactions, and continue to urge all clients to stay vigilant,” Standard Chartered shared.
Not sure whether what you’re looking at is a scam? Call ScamAlert at 1800-722-6688 to receive scam-related advice, or visit the ScamAlert website to learn more about scams.