I’m scammed almost every day. Or, if not scammed, at the very least someone tries to scam me. Usually more than once a day.

James Altucher, American author

Many of us would have posed this question on the subject of love scam.

When it is so common and well-publicised now, why are so many still so gullible?

Try talking to the victims or their family members and their tales are only too familiar. They were lonely and vulnerable and thought they have found true love.

We now know that the con-artists usually pick victims known to them and if they do not, they would do a thorough search of the background and details of their targets, as police accounts have revealed.

Often too, like other online scams, they would embark on random hits and chances are that they would strike a goldmine in a matter of time.

This explains why the gullible and vulnerable, including Malaysians and Sarawakians, have been conned of hundreds of millions in such scams.

Men and women have been victims of love scams but in Sarawak, like elsewhere I suppose, women are most vulnerable.

According to Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah, the Minister of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development, most love scam victims in Sarawak are women.

She told the State Legislative Assembly last year that from Jan 1 till April 24 of 2019, 25 of the 35 love scam victims were women and the total losses were RM1.35 million while 13 suspects had been charged in court.

Fatimah added that the Macau scam and love scam, and employment fraud and online purchasing scam were the four most common cyber-crimes targeting Sarawakians.

Here are two Sarawak love scam cases this year.

In March, a 33-year-old Sibu woman fell victim and lost RM370,500 after being smitten by the sweet words of her so-called paramour whom she only knew from social media.

A month later, a government officer in Sibu was willing to give a woman RM60,000 over their three-year relationship, reporting to the police that the money was meant as an advance payment for their supposed marriage.

The story has the same, sad ending — he realised later that he was conned.

Not surprisingly, there are more victims of love scams over in Malaya.

Only last Sunday, a single mother in her 50s, who is also a government retiree, claimed to have lost more than RM480,000 to a love scam syndicate.

According to the Kelantan police, this was the largest amount of loss reported in online scams in the state to date.

On April 12, though travel restrictions were in place due to the movement control order (MCO), a teacher in Kuantan nonetheless fell victim to a love scam after believing that an alleged con-artist had travelled from a neighbouring country to meet her in Kuala Lumpur.

To make matters worse, the 42-year-old victim who befriended the suspect on social media in February lost RM93,000 of her hard-earned savings.

Now, cringe at this “big one”.

On June 28, a 57-year-old widow from Seremban reported to the police that she has been cheated of RM1.15 million in a love scam by a man she befriended through a chat and dating application.

To many of us, including women, it’s incomprehensible that a woman would transfer more than RM1 million to a stranger she has not even met.

Ask any woman reading this, rich widow or not, whether she would embark on such a foolish act, I think we could guess her response.

It would probably go along these lines: “I have better ways to spend RM1 million than to give my money to a good-for-nothing prick”.

Oh, didn’t they say that love is blind but seriously, are we that blinded by love? On affairs of the heart, one can never tell.

Perhaps, it is true as someone once said that “the brain becomes illogical, in the throes of new romance”.

How else would you explain how Nigerian nationals were able to scam Malaysian women online of up to RM238 million from 2017 till May last year?

To lonely women looking for partners, here’s a parting advice.

Don’t fall for the sweet words of these conmen who have rehearsed well the art of persuasion.

When they whispered in your ear, “Darling, I love you”, be forewarned that they actually meant, “Darling, I just love your money”.

People, hang on to your hard-earned cash. Never play play with strangers online. You’ll live to regret it.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

  • FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of ‘Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan’ which was recently launched. Contact him for autographed copies at sirsiah@gmail.com. The book retails at RM40 (Sarawak) and RM42 (West Malaysia).