News

He dupes me...He dupes me not?

REPORT:  MAUREEN KOH

maureenk@sph.com.sg

Their mother has allegedly lost $700,000 to an online lover she has not met even once.

Mr Paul Yang and his three siblings are hoping that by sharing this story, their mother can finally be convinced to go to the police.

The engineer, 40, is also frustrated that neither he nor his siblings can get any more information from his mother, who is in her 60s.

Mr Yang, who is the eldest, has two sisters and a brother. They are not married. Their father died of cancer about seven years ago.

He tells The New Paper on Sunday: "We just want to know what actually happened, but other than what our aunt has told us, my mother refuses to say anything much."

It does not help that his mother has decided to move out of his younger sister's home.

"We don't know where she is staying or with whom. She is willing to meet up only once a week for our regular breakfast, and threatens to leave whenever we try to bring the matter up," he says.

When TNPS tried to approach Mr Yang's mother for her side of the story, she cut off the call after the introduction. Subsequent attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

But what Mr Yang knows from his maternal aunt is that his mother met her online lover on Facebook in January last year.

The man had left a message in her inbox and asked to be friends.

He says: "He claimed to be a Singaporean, who moved to Kuala Lumpur after his divorce left him devastated, and that he was looking for companionship.

"He also claimed that he missed his children very much and that he envied my mother for having four filial children."

Mr Yang's aunt, 50, who wants to be known only as Madam Goh, says in a phone interview: "My sister felt sorry for him at first.

"She told me that she finds herself fortunate and that he seemed like a lonely man in a country with no family members."

A month after chatting online regularly, the pair exchanged mobile phone numbers and communicated daily via Whatsapp.

Mr Yang says: "He even invited my mother to go to Kuala Lumpur to meet him, and promised that he would take her around town."

But Mr Yang's mother did not take up the invitation because she did not want the man to feel that she was "like a desperate old woman", says Madam Goh.

"My sister said she wanted to take it slow."

Sometime in August, the man "suddenly vanished" for about three weeks. He did not message or respond to messages on Whatsapp and Facebook.

It was around the same time that Mr Yang and his siblings realised that their mother was "seeing someone".

"She was moping at home, and my sister who lives with her, found out bits and pieces about the 'relationship'," recalls Mr Yang.

"But what we didn't realise then was that they had not even met each other in person. We just assumed that they had started dating and felt really happy for our mother.

"We gave her our blessings and told her not to worry, that maybe he went on a trip and she should arrange for us to meet him when he is back."

In early September, the man resurfaced and messaged Mr Yang's mother.

Madam Goh says: "My sister was so happy that she called me right after. She also said that the man was 'overjoyed' at knowing that my nephews and nieces are willing to accept him.

"He also said that he had gone to Hong Kong to discuss a food franchise and was hoping to set up business in Kuala Lumpur.

"But he added that he was willing to consider relocating back to Singapore so that he could marry my sister."

Mr Yang says: "I think in some ways, my mother presented to him the golden opportunity when she told him that we were prepared to give them our blessings.

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"We kept pressing her to get him to meet us. She told us that he was busy setting up his small business.

"He had also told my mother that he wanted to make sure the business was up and running first so that we would be more willingly to entrust her happiness to him.

"It turned out to be a whole load of rubbish."

The last thing they expected to find out was that their mother eventually lost all her money - her savings and part of their late father's insurance payout.

Two weeks before Chinese New Year, Madam Goh called Mr Yang with the bad news.

She says: "My sister came over one afternoon and cried her heart out. It was then that she revealed she had transferred all her money to the man, who had told her that he needed the money for the business.

"He had closed down his Facebook account. His mobile phone number was also no longer in use."

Yet, she pleaded with Madam Goh not to tell her children.

"I told my sister, 'How can like that? They are your children and they must know what has happened to their mother'," she says.

Mr Yang maintains that he and his siblings do not blame their mother but wishes that she could open up.

"My mother just keeps mum. Each time we try to raise the issue, she'd just walk off or disconnect the call.

"We even had to go through her things before we found her bankbook and saw that she had made three transfers totalling $700,000," he says.

When they confronted her, she flew into a rage, packed a bag and left home.

Mr Yang says: "I wish there is something that we could do but we cannot even make a proper police report because we have such bare details.

"We don't even know if the man is really a Singaporean as the bank account appears to be a Malaysian account.

"My mother has threatened to kill herself if we continue to try and investigate more."

He pauses for a few seconds, then continues in a weary tone: "But you know what is the worst thing?

"My mother still believes that he will return to her, that all of this is but a misunderstanding."