Victims lost $300,000 to credits-for-sex scams last month
Hundreds of local men have fallen prey to latest love scam involving a third-party online payment platform. We speak to three victims
He agreed to meet Feifei, a prostitute, because her rates were cheaper than those at Geylang.
But instead of saving money, he was cheated of more than $200.
John (not his real name), 26, is one of more than 200 men here who have fallen prey to the latest scam - the credit-for-sex scam.
But John can consider himself fortunate to have lost just $200. One victim last month lost $35,000.
The ruse involves scammers, who claim to be young and attractive women on social media, enticing men to buy online credit for them in exchange for sexual favours.
The credit is mostly in the form of Alipay Purchase Cards, available at AXS machines, though some victims have paid with iTunes cards.
Alipay is a third-party online payment platform similar to PayPal and its credit can be used only on Chinese retail websites Taobao and Tmall.
The victims register the cards with the scammer's e-mail address, giving the latter free use of the shopping credit stored in the card.
The victims invariably never get to meet the "women", let alone have sex with them.
All they get to see are photographs, which are most likely fake.
For John, it started last Thursday, when he chanced upon a picture of a woman named Feifei on Chinese website Baidu.
Attracted by her looks, he added her on WeChat, a Chinese messaging service, and they began chatting.
John, who has had a girlfriend for two years, told The New Paper yesterday: "She said she was from Sichuan (in south-west China) and was studying in a university here.
"She also told me that she was a prostitute and asked if I was interested."
The delivery driver rejected her advances as he was tired after work.
But they continued chatting over the next two days, with Feifei calling him "darling" and sending him sexy photos.
When she offered her services on Saturday, John agreed.
"I was working half-day on Saturday and she was cheaper than the prostitutes in Geylang - $100 for two hours and $200 for overnight and unlimited," he said.
They were to meet at Block 728, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, but when John arrived, she was nowhere in sight.
Instead, she instructed him over WeChat to buy an Alipay card at a nearby AXS machine.
"I didn't think it was a scam. She told me it was safer to pay using the card than with cash," he said.
John bought a RMB500 ($110) Alipay card and registered it using her e-mail.
Soon after, a man claiming to be Feifei's boss called him and asked for an additional $1,000.
John said: "He was polite and had a Chinese accent. He said the money was a deposit to ensure Feifei's safety and promised I would get it back."
When John told him he could not pay such a huge sum, the man got angry.
"He demanded more money and started scaring me by saying he had gangster connections which could track down my address.
"When I threatened to call the police, he said he had friends high up in the force who could protect him."
Out of fear, John bought another RMB500 Alipay card using Feifei's e-mail.
"I was very afraid the boss might do something to me. And since I was already there, I wanted to pay and meet Feifei."
But he never heard from the boss or Feifei again. Later that night, Feifei blocked John on WeChat.
He said: "I feel so angry that I paid $200 and no one showed up. I scolded myself for being so stupid and lustful."
He has shared his story on the National Crime Prevention Council website, where more than 20 men have come forward with similar experiences.
They are among the 249 men who have fallen for the credit-for-sex scam up to March since it surfaced last year.
Last month alone, 141 victims lost more than $300,000.
John wants to put this episode behind him.
"I won't be so gullible and try to meet up with strangers any more. I hope my girlfriend never finds out."
How Alipay scam works
TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
In this variation of a love scam, conmen convince male victims to buy cards or online shopping credit in exchange for a meet-up, date or sexual liaison.
The scammers typically insist that the victims buy the cards from AXS machines before sending images of the receipts along with the PIN for them to claim the credit.
They normally befriend victims on social media platforms such as WeChat and iAround and communicate with them through online messaging and phone calls.
To avoid becoming a victim:
- Be wary of strangers who befriend you online.
- Do not provide personal details about yourself when engaging with other Internet users.
- Do not share your payment receipts containing details such as PINs with anyone.
If you have any information relating to this scam, call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or dial 999 for urgent police assistance.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council
Number of cases
60 - 2014
80 - January 2015
28 - February 2015
141 - March 2015
Source: Police Intelligence Department
NSF: I thought I was going on a first date
Sam (not his real name) first chatted with Nana over WeChat on Sunday morning.
A flurry of texts later, she asked to meet that evening. By the end of the night, Sam, 23, was $700 poorer.
The full-time national serviceman had fallen for the credit-for-sex scam.
Sam, who is single, was browsing a social escort website when he became smitten with Nana's sexy profile picture. He said: "She was very pretty and had heavy make-up on. She was wearing just a tank top and shorts."
They began chatting on WeChat and things escalated quickly. Soon, they were exchanging intimate messages.
"She talked to me like how a girlfriend would talk to her boyfriend," he said.
Nana initiated a meeting that evening. Thinking it would just be a date, Sam agreed to meet her at Killiney Road.
When she didn't show up, Sam sent her a message over WeChat and received instructions to purchase an Alipay card at an AXS machine.
He said: "I did it because I thought I was paying for our first date. It's normal for a guy to pay for a girl."
After purchasing a 500-yuan (S$110) Alipay card using Nana's e-mail address, Sam received a call from a man claiming to be her boss.
"He told me I had to pay $1,000 so he'd know Nana was safe and I would get my money back after our meeting."
Sam bought another $600 worth of Alipay credit but that did little to satisfy Nana's boss.
"He started screaming and shouting at me. He said he would get the money from my friends and family if I didn't pay up."
Sam hung up in fear and only then did he realise he had been scammed.
"I felt so angry about the money and was afraid my parents would find out."
He has since uninstalled WeChat from his phone and said he will never look for social escorts online again.
"I went there only because I was curious. Now I feel extremely dumb."
He buys all cards at convenience store
He wanted to help a social escort who claimed she was in trouble.
But Eric (not his real name), ended up losing $1,200.
The 30-year-old Malaysian from Sarawak had also fallen prey to the credit-for-sex scam. But in his case, the scam was carried out with iTunes gift cards instead of Alipay.
The married man of eight years, who works as an aircon repairman, met the woman who called herself Xiaoxin on messaging app WeChat last Wednesday.
He told The New Paper: "She sent me a request on WeChat and I accepted. I don't usually accept strangers but her profile picture was very pretty."
Eric said he was attracted to Xiaoxin, with her long locks and big eyes.
They spent the next three days chatting and he found out that she was working as an escort here.
"We would talk about her work and her family back home in Taiwan. She said her mum was very ill and her dad owed TW$500,000 (S$21,700).
"I felt very sorry for her."
Last Friday, she told Eric that her next customer was into S&M (sado-masochism).
Eric said: "She said all her colleagues would come back with bruises after serving him. She begged me to help her get out of her session by paying $200."
When he arrived at Jurong East MRT Station to meet her, she instructed him to buy iTunes gift cards and send her the serial numbers. She did not show up.
He said: "I went to Cheers and bought $200 worth of iTunes cards."
Xiaoxin's boss later called him and demanded a deposit of $1,000, which he paid with more iTunes gift cards.
"I bought so many that Cheers ran out of cards and I had to go to a 7-11 to buy more," he said, adding that he bought more than 10 cards in total.
After spending $1,200 in iTunes cards, he never got to meet her but she continued pestering him for money over WeChat. Eric, whose wife lives in Malaysia, has not told anyone about the incident.
"I'm embarrassed that I got cheated."