'I want to prove I didn't fall for a conman'

A lonely heart makes an easy target, says a pyschologist. But one woman explains why she is holding on to love despite having lost her savings

He was a foot reflexology therapist.

Charming, attentive and caring, he showered attention on the lonely divorcee, who was feeling even more down after her only child got married.

But her happiness was short-lived.

Six months later, Madam Chan Siow Ping is in debt and heartbroken.

Not only has she lost all her savings of $850,000, she also owes relatives a total of $10,000.

And she is even lonelier now that her daughter has made it clear she wants nothing to do with her.

Madam Chan, 63, tells The New Paper on Sunday in a mix of Mandarin and Hokkien: "My daughter is very upset and has cut off ties with me.

"She doesn't want to see me, she doesn't even want to take my phone calls."

Madam Chan's daughter, Madam Zheng Jiajia, 38, a housewife, says: "Of course I am angry with my mother. How could she have been so stupid? So okay, 'bo bian' (means cannot be helped in Hokkien) she has been cheated but at least make a police report, lah.

"But she just doesn't want to do it. It's not like the man is going to turn up and say, 'Oh surprise, I was busy all the while trying to prepare our love nest'."

Madam Zheng is also angry that her mother has gone on to borrow money from their relatives.

"And who is left now to pay these relatives? Me! I am not working, my husband earns only $3,000 and we have a baby on the way," she says, her voice raised in exasperation. "All my mother does is to cry."

Psychologist Richard Lim says that loneliness is often the biggest vulnerability: "Women are generally more susceptible even though men are not spared too.

"For women, it's often their heart and their emotions that make them more vulnerable.

"They may be financially stable but they are lonely. So when a man shows interest in them, they open up their hearts, and later, most unfortunately, their bank accounts."

Madam Chan's misery began when she met the Chinese national at People's Park Centre.

He was working part-time at a foot reflexology shop there, while she runs a stall selling noodles with a partner.

Madam Chan says: "He was a regular customer at our stall, buying takeaway at least five or six times a week. And he seemed so shy."

They started to make small talk and he told her that he was "working very hard to save up for his 'lao po ben' (marriage fund in Mandarin)".

The man claimed he was in his late 60s and that he was not married because he spent his time taking care of his aged parents until they died.

He then started to show interest in her, says Madam Chan. He told her she looked like his first love, a classmate in high school.

She says: "I'd also share stories about my life and how lonely I felt after my daughter got married two years ago."

Madam Chan insists that their love developed gradually and it was only two months later that they first had sex.

She says: "We went out on several dates after work at first and everything was so innocent.

"He was also very shy. In fact, I was the one who first held his hand. He even blushed the first time I gave him a goodbye kiss."

Which is why Madam Chan still finds it hard to believe that she has been conned. She insists: "How can a man like that cheat me? I am still very sure that there is a misunderstanding somewhere."

The man proposed to her on Nov 2 with a gold ring.

"I was very touched and I said yes at once, even though I had yet to tell my daughter about him," she recounts.

"I was sure that she would be happy for me now that I had found my happiness. After all, it had been nearly 10 years since my divorce."

But he made her promise not to say anything to her child first.

"He told me he wanted to return to Guangzhou (in Guangdong province, China) to buy the house he had been eyeing, so that he could return with the title deed and prove to my daughter that he would be able to take care of me for the rest of my life.

"It made sense and he was really sincere. In fact, when he was worrying about raising the deposit for the home and another small piece of land, I was the one who asked if he wanted help."

He initially turned her down and it was only after Christmas that he told her he "had no choice but to accept the financial help".

Madam Chan ended up giving him her life savings of $850,000.

"He said that once he sold off his parents' land, he would pay me back everything," says Madam Chan.

The man left Singapore in mid-January and she has not heard from him or been able to contact him since.

She says: "I know what you are thinking. I know what my daughter thinks. But it has not even been two months since he went home, and he did tell me that his Singapore number won't be in use when he is back in China."

Madam Chan tried to pawn the proposal ring to get some money for Chinese New Year. But the ring turned out to be costume jewellery.

She admits that she had borrowed money from some relatives to hire a private investigator to track him down, but insists that it is because she is worried for his safety.

"Yes, I want answers. But what I want most is to know that he is well, and hopefully, that I can also prove to my daughter and our relatives that I am not a stupid woman who fell for a conman.

"And yes, even though the ring turned out to be a fake, I still believe that our love is real."

maureenk@sph.com.sg

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