Just in time for Valentines’ Day, the Straits Times published a report about how online love scams are on the rise, despite other types of online cheating going down.
More than $24 million was lost to online love scams in 2016 alone, the largest sum lost by a single victim being $1.7 million. At this rate, the love scam industry is going to beat the billion dollar tuition industry. By contrast, “only” $12 million was lost in online love scams in 2015.
Despite Singaporeans being more alert to online scams in general (for instance, most guys now know not to hand over that $500 in Alipay credits to the WeChat “acquaintance”), why did so many more people fall for online love scams in 2016? Here are three reasons:
1. More people are turning to the Internet to find love
There may be more love scammers these days, but that’s possibly just a simple case of demand and supply. Scammers have realised that there’s more money to be made in online love scams because there’s been a steady rise in the number of people using the internet to find love.
2015 and 2016 were big years for online dating in Singapore. While it’s been around since 2012, 2014-2015 was when Tinder started to become mainstream in Singapore.
By 2016, it seemed like practically every single person was on Tinder or other apps like OKCupid or Paktor. People don’t even try to hide the fact anymore. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where many have given up trying to meet people offline. I’ve seen guys in bars swiping away at Tinder when they were surrounded by hordes of real-live women.
There aren’t any figures on the number of people using online dating apps, but it’s probable that the number’s grown exponentially over the last few years.
2. The perception that giving financially is an expression of love
Singaporeans aren’t exactly the most expressive people. That could be because we value doing rather than talking.
Many parents are all too ready to make financial sacrifices for their kids—in a 2016 survey, 52% of Singaporean parents said they were willing to go into debt to finance their children’s education.
Likewise, many coupled up Singaporeans, particularly men, feel pressured to show they are willing to spend on their partners, not just as proof of their ability to support a family, but also to demonstrate their love (pretty sure Prada handbags don’t have much to do with supporting a household).
That could be just the factor that pushes many victims of online love scams to open their wallets. They think they’re in love with the scammer, and to them, giving them financial help when they need it is a natural expression of this love.
3. Scammers masquerade as well-off people with good jobs, which can encourage their victims to invest in the relationship
Contrary to what many men might think, not all Singaporean women are gold diggers (really). But let’s be honest—due to the high cost of living, many want to see that their partner has the means to support a family when looking for marriage.
The fact that scammers tend to target women of marriageable age and above heightens the possibility that their victims are looking not just for love, but also for someone who’s financially stable enough for marriage.
Because these faux internet lotharios depict themselves as well-off, worldly people, their victims feel justified in offering them financial help.
After all, this person is presumably wealthy enough to pay them back, and if they invest in this relationship, they’ll have a partner who’s financially stable.
Take the guy who cheated that poor lady out of $1.2 million. He was supposedly an American engineer (they get get paid well over there) and investor.
On the other hand, if these same victims had fallen in love with someone who was poor and then asked for financial help, they might be warier about handing over their cash despite their amorous feelings, for fear of not being able to get their money back or being made use of.
The sad truth is that we judge people by their appearance, especially when the said person is nothing more than a bunch of Facebook messages and phone calls. And in Singapore, more than in many other countries, perceived wealth boosts the amount of respect you command.
Have you ever been contacted by an online love scammer? Tell us in the comments!