Cheaters cheated

It seemed almost too good to be true.

The women claimed to be American students living in Singapore.

And last year, 'Marsha' contacted James (not his real name) through an adult dating website, offering him access into an exclusive group sex club with "pretty American students on holiday in Singapore".

The sex parties, Marsha claimed, are held at a five-star hotel every month.

And to sign up, all he had to do was to hand over his credit card details to pay for a one-time joining fee of $100.

James went to the hotel and waited in the lobby for three hours.

Marsha never came and he went home to his wife, telling her that he had fixed a problem at work.

"Looking back it was a silly thing to do. I had never met those girls and my credit card was used to pay for something I never bought," the 39-year-old, who works in the hospitality industry, told The New Paper.

Adult dating sites have been in the spotlight recently and many have criticised them for promoting adultery.

But it seems there is a bigger danger: Scammers are also targeting these sites to cheat men of money.

Although suspicious at first, James gave in after he spoke to Marsha on the phone.

"She was definitely American and that, to me, was a confirmation she was real," he said.

Attracted by a picture of a doe-eyed, dark-haired young woman on the profile page, James added her to his list of friends without another thought.

"I then entered my credit card details into the website she gave me around midnight that night. I then left home and headed to the hotel hoping she would call me."

He ended up waiting at the lobby for nearly three hours but no call came.

CREDIT CARD SCARE

He said he didn't report the matter, wanting to consign it to a bad experience.

But the next day, the bank called him to ask if he had made a US$2,000 (S$2,500) purchase overseas.

"I never made the purchase and it could have happened only through my encounter with Marsha.

"Luckily after I explained the situation to the bank, they waived the charge and replaced my credit card," James said with a sigh.

Last year, TNP reported that a user on social networking site Tagged had made similar offers to men.

Understandably, not many victims of such scams would be willing to come forward, especially since online solicitation is illegal in Singapore.

James didn't report the matter to the police because "I was out for fun and I didn't want my wife to find out."

Cyber security experts told TNP that there is a network of scammers working to fleece the unsuspecting of their credit card details online.

Some posts direct the men to websites where they have to pay to become members; while others ask the men to transfer money to bank accounts to get a woman to meet them for sex.

These operators are trained to do social engineering and to trick you into revealing your personal information.

Ademco Security Group's managing director Toby Koh said a lot of such cases go unreported because "the men do not want people to know they've done something wrong".

Mr Alex Nian, manager of IT firm SecureIT- NET cautioned potential users about revealing their credit card details to unknown sources.

He said: "There are cases where these scammers use the credit card details to buy goods and then ship these items overseas."

"They are also very hard to track down.

"So never, ever reveal personal information in cyberspace."

Difficult to block every adultery website

The failed launch of adultery website Ashley Madison in Singapore has not stopped others from entering the fray.

Will they be blocked too?In a written reply to Members of Parliament on Nov 11, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said: "Besides Ashley Madison, there are many other websites available on the Internet which promote non-monogamous relationships and extramarital affairs.

"It is not possible for the Media Development Authority to block every such website."

Be wary of people you meet online

The police recently highlighted a series of extortion cases, using tactics similar to those of the "Internet love scam".

In these cases, the victims were befriended by women - mostly foreigners - through social networking sites such as Facebook and Tagged.

They were then persuaded to pose naked on webcams. The culprits would then record the footage and threaten to circulate it online if the victims did not transfer money to them.

The latest figures showed that more than 50 such cases were reported last year. Only 11 such cases were reported the previous year.

Members of the public are advised to be cautious when dealing with unknown persons over the Internet. Anyone who encounters such an incident should report the matter to the police immediately.


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