Over $1m lost in 15 days: S’porean retiree loses life savings in scam by fake Facebook friend

SINGAPORE – Accepting a friend request on Facebook from a stranger who asked for help has turned into a nightmare for a 65-year-old Singaporean retiree, who ended up losing her entire life’s savings of $1,078,053.62 in only 15 days.

Madam Tan (not her real name) met a man, “Alvin”, on the social media platform in August, and he claimed to be the Singaporean chief executive of an interior design firm in Britain. He also said he was about to complete his final project – a hotel in London – before retirement.

He then asked her to facilitate payments for him, and that made her distrustful initially.

Alvin told her that he could not procure materials from companies in China, and had been referred to a particular one in Sabah, but as he could not speak Mandarin, he needed her to act as an intermediary.

To convince her that everything was legitimate, he made bank transfers to her account that were worth more than the cost of the materials, reassuring her that it would be credited within the span of two to four days.

He even claimed that he sent her the transfer statements from the British bank Barclays, showing her transfer statements that not only eased Madam Tan’s fears, but also convinced her to part with her money.

Except that it was all a ruse.

The transfer statements Madam Tan received, seen by The Straits Times, had telltale signs that they were fake. 

First, there were the different font sizes used across the three documents. The dates also appeared to be formatted haphazardly, ranging from “Sep 04” to “Sep 5” and then “Sep 07”, among other inconsistencies.

ST has contacted Barclays with copies of the alleged transactions to find out if its statements resemble those that Madam Tan has with her.

Between Sept 4 and Sept 19, however, Madam Tan did not know any better. Although she was aware that she had not received any deposits into her bank account, she believed the scammer, who had told her the transfers would take a few days to be processed.

When told that she needed to continue making payments to settle additional fees such as shipping and taxes, she believed the scammer, and ended up making transfers of at least $20,000 each time. This took place on 22 occasions.