ST CloseUp: A nurse and her lover – the anatomy of a scam

Note: The video contains strong language which may be offensive to some viewers.

SINGAPORE – In 2021, as Covid-19 held Singapore in its grip, Laura – a 38-year-old healthcare worker – was feeling the toll.

Alone in Singapore as her family was overseas and having exited a nine-year relationship, the bright spots in her life were the long, heartfelt conversations on WhatsApp that she was having with her new boyfriend.

His messages kept coming: photographs of his life as an interior designer in Vancouver, declarations of love, terms of endearment – and dreams of the life they will build together.

But it was all too good to be true.

What happened next is something that is becoming distressingly common: In just a few months, Laura lost her life savings and has declared bankruptcy.

She is one of many victims who have fallen prey to the psychological manipulation of scammers.

Since 2016, scammers have ensnared thousands in Singapore, cheating victims of close to a billion dollars.

Their modus operandi range from love scams such as what Laura went through, to the OCBC phishing scams which saw over $13 million worth of losses reported after scammers used spoofed messages to impersonate the bank, convincing OCBC’s customers to hand over banking information.

Scammers are constantly evolving, coming up with fresh ways to dupe would-be victims.

The latest is a new investment scam, with fraudsters impersonating representatives of sovereign wealth fund GIC on group chats on messaging platform Telegram, the police warned on April 28.

The Straits Times’ CloseUp takes a dive into the anatomy of scams: how scammers strike at hearts, deploy mind games and use the latest technology to stay ahead.

CloseUp, an investigative video series, takes a deeper look at issues that hit close to home.