SINGAPORE: A retired woman lost more than S$1 million after being scammed by a man she met on Facebook. After they became “friends” on the social media platform, it took only a little more than two weeks for her to be cheated out of her life savings of $1,078,053.62.

Sixty-five-year-old “Madam Tan” told her story to The Straits Times (ST). She told ST that she had lived a frugal life and that the scam had wiped out 40 years of her savings. Worse yet, she is now in debt because of a bank loan she took out due to the scam. The money she had lost in the scam was originally set aside to care for her needs, especially health care, in her older years.

Mdm Tan originally accepted a friend request from a man who called himself Alvin and asked her for help. He said he was a Singaporean working as the CEO of a design company in England.

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“Alvin” told the retiree that he was finishing his last project before retiring, which he said was a hotel in London. He needed Mdm Tan’s help because he couldn’t speak Mandarin, so he asked her to be an intermediary in getting materials from Chinese firms, particularly one based in China. He needed the retiree to facilitate payments for him.

Alvin purported to “transfer” money into her account that was equivalent to more than what was needed to pay for the materials, which helped her overcome her doubts. He assured her these amounts would clear within two to four days, going to the point of presenting to her transfer statements from Barclays, a UK bank.

This convinced Madam Tan to make the “payments” that Alvin asked her to facilitate. ST reported that the retiree made 22 transfers of at least S$20,000 each and then transferred S$50,000 that she borrowed from her son between Sept 4 and 19. These amounts were needed for the materials Alvin needed for his project, shipping, and taxes.

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Mdm Tan knew no funds were being transferred back into her account but trusted Alvin when he told her it would take some days to complete the transaction. However, the statements from Barclays turned out to be fake.

The retiree took money from her CPF account and borrowed S$24,000 from the bank. Mdm Tan now needs to repay her bank loan. She had also borrowed money from her son, telling him she would pay when her fixed deposits matured, although she had, in fact, already withdrawn her fixed deposits at the time, and these had been lost in the scam as well.

On Sept 20, she received a call from a Malaysian number. The caller said her British “business partner” was being held at the airport because he had too much cash and that Alvin needed S$98,000. Mdm Tan would have asked to borrow even more money from her daughter, 32, but her son intervened and told her that she was being victimized by scammers. And when she tried to contact those who had been scamming her, her calls went unanswered.

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Mdm Tan’s case is being investigated, as she filed police reports regarding the scam. UOB, Standard Chartered, DBS Bank, and OCBC Bank are all assisting with the investigations. /TISG

Woman scams 10 people, including her boyfriend & his parents, out of S$880,000+