Scam victim assured he doesn't owe Govt money
All he wanted was "someone from the Government" to tell him that he is not in debt to the Government.
And cleaner Tan Soy Kiang, 70, got that assurance last night, from his MP, Mr Hri Kumar Nair.
Mr Tan and his niece, Ms Pamela Lim, 39, had gone to Block 122 Toa Payoh Lorong 2, where Mr Hri Kumar, an MP for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was holding his meet-the-people session.
They were there to seek his help in getting Mr Tan subsidised rates for his mental evaluation.
"Upon my request, Mr Hri Kumar told my uncle he doesn't owe the Government money. He also said for him not to give anyone cash. My uncle just smiled and nodded," Ms Lim told TNP.
Mr Tan had allegedly given more than $400,000 to two Singaporean women over the last 15 years after they told him the money was for a "debt" he owed the Government.
One of the two women has since been arrested. The other is assisting the police with investigations.
While one of the two women admitted to cheating him, the other maintained her innocence and claimed she, too, had been conned.
Mr Tan's plight was first reported in The New Paper on Sunday.
The elderly man's niece, Ms Lim, said she recounted the whole story to Mr Hri Kumar, who listened intently.
And when he asked why she cared so much for her uncle, she could not help but get teary.
"I felt so sorry for being away for 15 years, only to return to find out he had suffered all this time," she said.
Ms Lim was living and working in Melbourne, Australia, for 15 years and Mr Tan, a bachelor, was living alone since 1991 after the death of his father.
Other than his MP, he also got to meet Mr Dan Chen yesterday.
Mr Chen, 28, who works in an international school, had started a campaign on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site, to raise money to help him.
Mr Tan had to hold two jobs as a cleaner and petrol pump attendant to repay the "debt" he thought he owed.
"I was both shocked and angry when I read the news in The New Paper on Sunday. Then I saw on Facebook that people wished to help, but no one stepped forward," Mr Chen said.
He took the initiative and launched the campaign on Indiegogo, with a target of US$5,000 (S$6,800) so others could help.
"But it has a life of its own and grew so fast. There were even donors from as far as Hong Kong, Australia and the US. There are a lot of kind people both here and overseas," he said.
As of last night, the amount raised had hit S$50,000.
Mr Chen visited Mr Tan at his niece's home in Jalan Gembira, off MacPherson, to find out how the money would help.
When asked how he felt about raising so much in so short a time, he said: "It's not about me. It's about Mr Tan. About helping someone who was cheated of his hard-earned money."
"There were even donors from as far as Hong Kong, Australia and the US. There are a lot of kind people both here and overseas."
- Mr Dan Chen on the people who gave to the fund created for Mr Tan Soy Kiang
Crooks gun for elderly's emotional soft spot
The number of elderly victims in cheating-related offences climbed in the past four years.
Last year, 95 people aged 65 and above fell prey to conmen, almost double of the 56 reported cases in 2011.
Professor Andy Ho from the Nanyang Technological University said crooks tend to target the "psychological soft spots of the elderly".
"These include family members and people the elderly care about or when it comes to making a quick buck," he said.
"Research have shown elderly victims are those with low education and financial resources. They would generally believe what is told to them by someone of power or someone they know," Prof Ho said.
SCHEMES FOR SENIORS
Collaborating with the National Crime Prevention Council, the police have embarked on many Community Safety and Security Programmes designed specifically to involve the elderly.
They have initiated the Elderly Crime Prevention Ambassador scheme, aimed at raising crime prevention awareness among seniors.
They have also launched the Silver Watch Group scheme, which not only educates senior citizens against crimes such as robbery, snatch theft and scams, but also enlists their help as "eyes and ears" for suspicious or criminal activity in the heartland.
The police advise the elderly to:
- Be wary if approached directly by strangers or through telephone or e-mail.
- Check on the credibility of information or messages that they receive.
- Hide user account IDs, passwords, PINs and credit card details.
- Not transfer any money via remittance agencies, banks or any other means to anyone they do not know.
- Remember that offers that are too good to be true are probably fake.
- Call the police immediately to report scams.
Other cases of cheating the elderly
Four men, aged between 48 and 53, allegedly cheated an elderly woman of $10,000 by convincing her to buy capacitors at cost price. They were uncontactable after getting the money. The four have been charged in court for cheating.
Former cleaner Jumahri Suriman conned an 82-year-old widow of $200 and stole her $300 mobile phone. Investigations revealed that Jumahri, then 56, had been cheating Malay senior citizens and pocketed $2,298 from seven victims. He was sentenced to 11 months' jail.
A 70-year-old woman was tricked into investing $10,000 in gold coins. Two crooks, Yap Bun Kwong, 66, and Mohamed Sarip Ejang, 72, were jailed three months each. Two others are still at large.
OCTOBER 2009 TO OCTOBER 2011:
A sales executive of a jewellery store cheated an elderly retiree and a regular customer of $2.3 million. He was jailed six years on 12 charges of cheating, with the remaining 25 charges taken into consideration during sentencing.
MORE ELDERLY FALL PREY
Number of elderly victims (aged 65 years & above) in cheating and related offences
2014 - 95*
2013 - 72
2012 - 62
2011 - 56
* FIGURES ACCURATE AS OF FEB 9, 2015 SOURCE: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE