Internet love scammers prey on romantic beliefs

To carry out Internet love scams, scammers often target women in their 40s to 60s who have strong romantic tendencies.

This means that they believe there is someone out there who can sweep them off their feet, said senior psychologist Jeffery Chin, who studies criminal behaviour.

From January to June this year, there was a 273-per cent increase in such cases as compared to the same period last year.

The assistant director of the crime, investigation and forensic psychology branch at the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre added: "Scammers use a variety of tactics to win the trust of their victims. They tend to study their victims through what they post online.

"When they finally engage their victims, they will attempt to present themselves as very similar to them."

An alternative persona scammers use is one of an authoritative figure, but "with an element of vulnerability".

"They may play a businessman or a doctor, but he or she may be undergoing divorce or is facing difficulty as a single parent. Victims buy it because it is socially normal to help someone like that."

Victims of Internet love scams are often the worst hit as they don't just lose money, said Mr Chin.

DIFFICULT

"It is very difficult for victims to move on because it's like losing a loved one. To them, it was a relationship with someone they thought they could spend the rest of their lives with."

In some cases after the scammer leaves, victims are "re-victimised" despite knowing that they were cheated before by the same person.

This is because of the intimate bond that they share, said Mr Chin.

How to avoid getting scammed

A new social media initiative, called #dontbescammed, was launched by the police yesterday to spread awareness about online scams.

The first post on the police's Facebook page shows how the Internet love scam is commonly carried out.

This is part of a targeted communications approach to reveal the methods used in different types of scams.


This article was first published on August 15, 2014.
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