Online scams: Singaporeans easy targets, says one scammer
Channel News Asia’s GET REAL team spoke to a scammer in the Philippines who says she earns US$2,100 a month from cheating people online.
SINGAPORE: Jimmy (not his real name) is a user of WeChat, a free text messaging and calling app. It has 650 million monthly active users worldwide. Last year, Jimmy received a message from someone calling herself “Momi”. Jimmy added her as a friend on WeChat and they started chatting regularly. Momi began sending revealing photos of herself, offering to be a “part-time girlfriend” in exchange for money. Jimmy, who has not met any of his WeChat contacts, agreed and arranged to meet Momi. However, Momi never arrived to meet Jimmy. Instead, the Singaporean received a call from Momi’s “friend”, who asked him to buy an iTunes card as payment for Momi’s sexual services. After Jimmy complied, he was asked to prove his identity by taking a photo of his identity card. That photo was then used to blackmail and threaten him into silence and further compliance. Jimmy had become a victim of an online credit-for-sex scam and had no choice but to report the case to the police.
In the first half of 2015, people in Singapore lost S$1.59 million in such scams, as well as S$3.7 million in Internet love scams. In the latter, scammers seek out victims via dating sites or social networking platforms and typically cheat them by claiming to be in financial trouble.
Singapore is one of the most connected countries in Asia with a high Internet-penetration rate and a very large digital footprint for a country its size. According to a 2014 Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore report, 88 per cent of households have access to the Internet and 79 per cent of individuals here use the Net.
Cyber criminals can take advantage of your information online for their own financial gain.
Singapore is a small nation in the real world, “said Mr. Shigeto Miyamoto, managing director of Cyber Secure Asia. “In cyberspace, Singapore has many servers, and that means it is a huge market in the cyberspace.
Mr. Paul Craig, director of Vantage Point Security, said: “Everything you do, the websites you go to, the conversations you have with your friends, the things you buy, are all inside your computer.” “If I had access into your computer, I can tell you more about you than you can ever tell me.
THE ALLURE OF ONLINE SCAMS
One of the latest variants of the credit-for-sex scam comes from the Philippines, the National Crime Prevention Council has said. Janice (not her real name), a 27-year-old wife and mother in the Philippine capital Manila, carries out online scams on a full-time basis. Like many online scammers, Janice was introduced to the business of online scamming by her friends. The attraction of financial rewards was something she could not ignore. Through online scams alone, Janice makes an average of US$2,100 monthly. In the Philippines, that is equivalent to a senior manager’s monthly salary. So lucrative is her trade that she has since introduced the skill of scamming to her neighbor.Janice told GET REAL why Singaporeans are easier, more “gullible” targets for scammers like her both in and out of the country. “Australians are quite difficult and snobbish, so I need to adjust to them a lot. I have to sound extra sweet and very loving, unlike Singaporeans. With them (Singaporeans), I can just say anything and they will easily believe me,” said Janice.Online dating sites are a common choice for scammers who tend to target men.
A PROWLING GROUND FOR SCAMMERS
Even though a large number of Singaporeans are considered relatively Internet-savvy, some seeking companionship turn to online dating sites where many “love scammers” operate, said experts.The lack of a language barrier has also made Singaporeans particularly easy targets for international cyber criminals to approach for scams, said experts and scammers like Janice.According to Norton Cyber Security, victims of online crime in Singapore have each lost an average of US$545 in the past year, higher than the international average of US$358 a victim.While Jimmy has yet to see his scammers brought to justice, his story serves as a warning to others about the dangers of online scams and other cyber crimes.