'It made me feel like my life was ruined': Man harassed by date he met online, says she 'sextorted' him

'It made me feel like my life was ruined': Man harassed by date he met online, says she 'sextorted' him
Minister K Shanmugam speaking at the Online Harms Symposium in Singapore Management University on Sept 25, 2023.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

He thought he found love, but all he uncovered was distress after becoming a victim of sextortion.

Andrew (not his real name) met a woman through dating application OkCupid but ended up being scammed of his money.

"We chatted for a bit and developed intimacy, which led her to extort me for money and she even threatened to spread our videos to my friends and family through social media," Andrew recalled.

"When it happened, I was in distress and I had very bad anxiety attacks, and she was constantly sending threats to me."

He described how being at that moment, "it made me feel like my life was ruined", and the only way to escape it "was to end it".

This Singaporean shared his experience in an audio recording at the Online Harms Symposium today (Sept 25), a three-day event where lawyers, educators and other industry players discuss topics including harassment, cyberbullying and cancel culture.

This event, held at the Singapore Management University, is from Sept 25 to 27.

Panic attacks

Through non-profit organisation SG Her Empowerment (SHE), Andrew shared that he felt ashamed and guilty after being sextorted, and also felt less confident and more paranoid when people look at him in public.

During the period right after he was scammed, whenever he would see anything even remotely relevant to sextortion, he would have adverse reactions.

Even simply using social media would trigger his anxiety, he said, and his deteriorated mental state caused him to get to the point where he "couldn't think straight".

Andrew's work was also affected as panic attacks would strike out of nowhere, requiring him to take time to recover from them.

A 'hopeless situation'

But Andrew did try to catch the perpetrator on his own.

He shared then when the blackmailing started, he recorded conversations with the woman, submitting the recordings as evidence to the police on the same day.

He also sought advice from his friend from SHE, and ended up blocking the scammer and deleting his Instagram account.

Recalling his prior interactions with his 'date', he said he had sent some money to her after feeling something was off.

"I actually gave a bit of money to see where the account is and all that," he said. "It was actually from overseas.

"So at that point I knew it was a kind of hopeless situation."

'Be better and just accept it'

When he reported it to the police, he was "desperately hoping" that they could help. Unfortunately, the police couldn't offer assistance due to the international nature of the case.

With the help of counselling sessions provided by SHE, Andrew has come to terms with this incident.

"After accepting that the whole incident has happened and that there's nothing I can change or do about it - people will definitely criticise me about why I fell for this or that scam - but the only thing I can do is be better and just accept it."

But acceptance doesn't mean that everything is better for Andrew now.

"Even though it's been months now and I've managed to overcome the situation… I will still feel very anxious every now and then knowing that the perpetrators still have my videos.

"Anything can happen at any time, even in the far future."

Further laws needed to empower victims, Shanmugam says

At the symposium, Minister of Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam cited recent survey findings on the harmful online content experienced by the average Singaporean, which he said were “sobering” and a “reality check”.

Studies by SHE, published in September, showed that roughly three in five respondents had encountered online harms or knew someone who did.

This was especially true among young people, in particular women.

"You can't have generations of young people growing up with these issues, with mental health affected. Self-confidence shattered, traumatised, vicitimsed, bullied," said the minister.

He added that some existing laws here, such as the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), might not be sufficient to cover online harms, given the ever-changing nature of the Internet, such as the rise of deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

"For some time now, we have believed that there needs to be further laws to empower victims of online harms to take action, protect themselves," Shanmugam said.

And beyond law enforcement and regulation, there is a need to focus on individuals, what rights they have and how they can be protected - issues he hoped would be discussed at the symposium.

“The focus here is not on the state dealing with these issues to protect society as a whole. It’s on the individuals – what harms do they face online and what rights should they have as individuals.

“What rights do individuals have to deal with the impact of these negative consequences, and how we can better empower and protect individuals?”


  • Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
  • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
  • Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
  • Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
  • Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
  • Shan You Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 6741-0078
  • Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: www.eC2.sg
  • Tinkle Friend (for primary school children): 1800-2744-788

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