The City of Love Singapore is not. We’re not people who wear our hearts on our sleeves. In fact, a Singaporean couple is more likely to get married when it’s time to collect the keys to the BTO flat than get swept up in a whirlwind romance.
So, why are so many Singaporeans falling for online love scams? Recently, the latest victim of one of these scams lost $1.2 million to her internet lothario… egad!
The weird thing is that online love scams have been around for years. But it’s only recently that the number of victims has spiked.
Everybody knows that if you receive an email from a Nigerian prince or some guy named “John Smith” who’s a wealthy widower looking for love, it’s got to be a scam. So why do people seem to be getting more and more gullible? Here are three reasons these love scammers are enjoying a windfall.
More love scammers are taking on ethnic Chinese identities
If someone receives a message from “Jim Williamson” or “Brian McDonald” on an online dating site, and he’s a mysteriously wealthy bachelor looking for a wife in Singapore, they’d be right to be suspicious.
But scammers these days often take on Chinese identities and even communicate fluently in Chinese, most of them being based in China.
The scammers take on the identities of wealthy businessmen and professionals from Hong Kong, Malaysia and China. These people often chat with their victims in Chinese or Chinese-inflected English not entirely unlike Singlish, which tends to make them a lot more relatable to the average Chinese Singaporean lady.
Using dating apps is becoming more socially acceptable
Love scammers used to hang out on dating and matchmaking websites like match.com. Unfortunately for them, online dating used to be quite stigmatised, and as a result many people were hesitant to use them. Even when they did sign up for such services, it often wasn’t without a healthy dose of caution and skepticism.
Fast-forward to 2016, and dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid are now considered socially acceptable. In fact, it sometimes seems like there are more Singaporeans who ask people out on dating apps in than in real life. People are quite open about sharing their Tinder horror stories or having their friends vet their dates’ Facebook profiles before they meet them in person.
That also means the average dating app user is now a lot less paranoid than some guy who secretly signed himself up on a dating website in 1999. That’s why scammers are now turning to newer and more popular platforms—you can start a conversation with someone on Tinder in seconds, without having to go through the painful process of vetting each other’s profiles.
International love affairs are becoming increasingly common in Singapore
One reason love scammer “John Smith” may not have found as much success back in 1999 could have been the fact that the average Singaporean looking for love was more comfortable seeking a Singaporean partner, probably from their own race.
But the country’s population has undergone a huge transformation over the past 10 years, and today almost a third of the people on our island were born overseas. A sizeable proportion of Singaporeans marry people of other nationalities. More people would also consider living and working abroad, which makes an overseas romance more viable. Singaporeans are some of the world’s most frequent travellers, and some are prepared to fly across oceans to meet a potential partner. Finally, thanks to WhatsApp and Skype, having an overseas lover doesn’t condemn you to buying countless international calling cards.
So when that “stock trader based in Hong Kong” swipes right on a victim, she is less likely to rule him out despite the fact that they wouldn’t be able to go on a date without one of them hopping on a plane. Heck, our poor victim might already have started fantasising about enjoying a dim sum meal with a view of Victoria Harbour.
This suits the scammers just fine, as the distance is precisely what makes them credible—it seems that people are fine with transferring huge sums of money to someone they haven’t met if that person is based overseas, precisely because they tend to use the distance as an excuse for never having met the person they’re supposedly in a relationship with. Go figure.
Have you ever encountered someone who you thought was an internet love scammer? Share your stories in the comments!