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I Fell For A Love Scam: How They Made It Seem So Real

‘Saman­tha’, a divorcee in her 50s from Malaysia, fell for a pig butcher­ing scam — a mash-up of romance and invest­ment schemes run by Asia-based online scam syn­di­cates. Among all the strange mes­sages flood­ing into her Insta­gram chat, this one caught her atten­tion: “You remind me of one of my teach­ers. I miss her very much.” After a brief con­ver­sa­tion on Insta­gram, scam­mers — pos­ing as an attrac­tive young man from Chi­na — sug­gest­ed mov­ing the chat to the instant mes­sag­ing plat­form LINE. When asked how it was pos­si­ble to fall in love so quick­ly with­out hav­ing met the per­son in real life, Saman­tha said “it’s like going back to the days when we had pen­pals, the thing called let­ters”. The scam­mers cooked up details of every­day life to make her believe that she was falling in love with ‘a real per­son’. They then tricked Saman­tha into invest­ing on a fake cryp­tocur­ren­cy plat­form in order to ‘build a future togeth­er’ — while ask­ing her to keep their rela­tion­ship a secret, promis­ing to get togeth­er once the pan­dem­ic is over. With­in months, Saman­tha lost about US$20,000. Look­ing back, Saman­tha said there were red flags that she should not have ignored. These are the lessons she’s learnt.

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