Sunday, March 24

Beware of the scammers’ guile


Lonely hearts are especially vulnerable to sweet talking con artists



IT is human nature to want to feel loved and have someone special who understands us and attends to our needs – emotional ones in particular.

Yet, it is also this very nature of humankind that can be easily manipulated by the unscrupulous who think nothing of resorting to chicanery to con the unsuspecting and the trusting into parting with their hard-earned possessions.

Human beings have the tendency to fall for individuals who appear to care for them, even if they have not met such individuals in person before.

Most victims of con jobs are lonely people who are vulnerable to the shenanigans of sweet-taking mountebanks.

When people are caught in a ‘to be or not to be’ quandary, most are inclined to pick the one with negative traits, according to social counsellor Wah Mui Kin.

Having been in the job since 2001, she has met a good number of people who faced difficulties coping with the vicissitudes of life and needed counselling to move on.

“It has nothing much to do with one’s marital status and qualification or whether one belongs to the high-income group. Practically, everybody needs love and a sense of belonging – more so for those who feel lonely and have a narrow social circle.

“When loneliness sets in, the lonely person is more likely to be moved by someone who shows great concern towards the person,” she said.


Wah offers her professional opinions during air time with RedFM.

In denial

More often than not, people are in denial when they have fallen for a scam as they find it hard to admit they too can get ripped off.

According to Wah, this is not about not having the gumption or being ignorant because even those educated and holding high positions can fall prey to scammers as well.

She noted that scammers usually cast a wider net to fish for victims rather than focusing on one or two easy targets, adding that scammers would work on gaining a person’s trust first through building a relationship with the person.

“It’s usually a seemingly harmless greeting such as ‘hi’, ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you?’ which gradually escalates to the stage where the victim starts to trust and confide in the scammer.

“Tricksters invest their time in winning the confidence of their victims. Through false pretenses, disguised as showing care and affection, they are able to convince the victims they care for them.

“I believe they keep a comprehensive record of all conversations with their victims lest they lose track,” she said.

According to Wah, con operators do not touch on their financial needs right away but instead, spend time painting a rosy image of themselves. They need their targets to buy the good image and the story they tell to lure them into their web of deceit.

“It’s all well-planned. Scammers capitalise on the kind-heartedness and sympathy of their targets. Not everyone will fall for it but remember, they cast a wider net and someone is bound to be swindled.”


Wah (right) poses with counsellor Dr John Banmen during a diploma course in 2008.

Wiring money

She said in some cases, victims were willing to wire money into the scammers’ accounts because they sympathised with the plight created by the scammers to pull of the con job.

“Some people are more susceptible to emotions while others manage to stay rational most of the time. When a person is having to deal with various emotional inadequacies, he or she lacks the ability to judge and think clearly,” she asserted.

“It’s situation akin to having two selves inside us, fighting against each other over what decision to make. In such a case, the negative self usually takes over.

“Depravity lingers in every corner and human beings, I mean, most of us, seem unable to fight it. This is why some people still cross the line even though deep down, they know they shouldn’t,” she explained.

Are there cases where people can resist the temptation?

Wah said there was no absolute answer either way because it was easy for outsiders to judge and say “no” to temptation, adding: “I believe it might not be an easy decision when it happens to us for the simple reason that human beings have weaknesses.”

She advised people facing problems with their relationships to share information with their family and close friends.

“You need not make a call straightaway. Talk to people you trust and heed their advice. It’s very important for people to build up self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Wah noted there had been cases of victims ending up with depression after being cheated by the people they trusted.

“They feel ashamed and guilty of what they had allowed to happen.”


Wah with a bouquet of flowers from individuals whom she has reached out to.

Online relationships

On online relationships, she said people should watch out for the pattern of conversations.

“Some online partners are good at pleasing the other halves and would do things to suit the latter’s needs.

“I’m not saying being agreeable is an absolute sign but people should be more mindful of it. Women prefer sweet talks and sugar-coated words can sweep them off their feet.”

Wah stressed integrity is key to any working relationships.

“A person can make you feel like you are the centre of his universe but this may not reflect the truth. Yet, some people can easily fall for sweet talks as though they are under a spell.

“This is especially so when a person is showered with praises which make him or her feel happy and wanted. When someone praises us, we should take it positively but there’s no need to magnify it.”

Wah said there were steps towards forming healthy relationships and she introduced five phases for getting to know a person in ‘a broader manner’.

“First, begin with greetings of hi or how are you? Second, share information like where to shop for nice stuff. Third, exchange opinions to promote understanding. Fourth, talk about daily events and experiences and lastly, open up about yourself – your glorious or ugly past.”

She advised that before committing to a relationship, people ought to compare notes on the values they subscribed to.

This should include how one spent one’s time as well as one’s relationship with the family, she said.

Wah also said how a person reacted under pressure was another factor to look to because through it, you could tell a lot about how a person managed his or her life.

According to her, some relationships failed because the people involved were eager to have intimacy. This may wear out their patience which is key to any healthy relationships. It’s important to realise ‘true love waits’.

She observed that more and more people were signing up for pre-marriage or relationship counselling courses because they wanted the relationship to work.

“Counselling does not guarantee success but at least two people are making an effort to maintain a healthy relationship. Prevention is better than cure.


Avoid scammers’ trap

Sharing some measures to avoid falling prey to scammers, Wah said when one felt something was not right, one should not deal with it on one’s own.

“Talk to friends you trust. Listen to what they have to say,” she counselled. People should be more sensitive to their surroundings and always ready to learn from the experiences of others, she added.

“Trust your instincts and seek professional counselling when the need arises. We all need to observe, ask more and learn more. It’s equally important to expand our social circle.

“The more you learn, the lower the chances you will get misled. You also need to have something to believe in – like religion, for example.”

Wah stressed while it was not easy to practise self-awareness, it, nonetheless, could help people understand themselves and their needs.

“For instance, some people get hurt easily by the comments of others and they need to figure out why to address the issue.”

She described integrity as the best attribute that people could have.

“It works like a silent pact between two people who are aware of their obligations and behave in a responsible manner.

“If I set a date at 10am and cannot make it on time, it’s my responsibility to inform the person who I’m going to meet that I’m running late.

“This matter itself is no biggie but when you make an effort to keep the other person in the loop, it is called upholding integrity,” she explained.

Wah advised the community to always remain calm when caught in an unexpected situation because panic could complicate matters.

“When you are gripped by fear or anxiety, you lose the ability to think straight. Remember, scammers will always take advantage of your weaknesses,” she added.

Wah has been offering counselling services since 2001 for the Chinese community as she majors in Mandarin. On Sundays, she has air time with RedFM to share her professional opinions over certain issues.

Throughout her career as a counselling worker, Wah has been attending workshops and courses to keep herself abreast of the latest know-how and counselling skills to better serve her target group.