A scam artist who posed as Singaporean actor Desmond Tan lured a fan into giving him more than RM60,000 (S$19,500) in cash by pretending to pursue a romantic relationship with her over messaging apps.
The 33-year-old Tan himself has expressed sympathy for the victim and called on fans not to fall for such scams as he would never personally contact fans privately.
According to a Lianhe Wanbao report, Kai Li, 50, a Malaysian marketing manager from Johor Bahru, communicated with the love scammer over a period of eight months beginning in October 2019.
The swindler first contacted Kai Li through Tan’s real Facebook account; it is not clear how he gained access to the actor’s account. From thereon, he continued messaging her through the messaging apps Line and WeChat and made several requests to Kai Li for money for various reasons.
Kai Li was overjoyed when she received that first message; she told Lianhe Wanbao that she was a longtime fan of Tan and watched all his dramas. She believed that this was the real Desmond Tan since the initial communication originated from his verified Facebook account, and therefore acceded to the impostor’s requests for money.
A scam that lasted eight months
The scammer flirted and chatted with Kai Li, and professed his love for her.
A week after first contact, the impostor asked Kai Li to travel to Shanghai to meet him. He said she only had to foot 30% of the travel costs and asked her to transfer him RM7,000 (~S$2,280). She transferred the money but the trip did not happen as the impostor later said the travel arrangements failed because his management agency bungled up.
The scammer then asked her for RM3,000 (~S$980) to help him tide over financial troubles over tax problems. Kai Li gave him the money.
Next, towards the year-end he again asked her to meet him in Shanghai to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, asking her for RM10,000 (~S$3,260) for the travel costs. She gave him the money too. Again, the trip did not occur.
The scammer told Kai Li he was unhappy with his agency (Mediacorp) for mismanaging his travel arrangements and wanted to quit his contract and leave the company. He asked her for a whopping RM40,000 (~S$13,000) to help him quit, saying that he would also be free to pursue a romantic relationship with her after quitting.
At that point, Kai Li had already pawned her jewellery in order to give him money. To raise the RM40,000, she sold her car and borrowed from a loan shark.
Kai Li told Lianhe Wanbao that when she found out that the Desmond she had been communicating with was fake, she felt foolish and heartbroken.
Desmond Tan’s advice to fans
The actor Tan only learnt about this scam incident when contacted by Lianhe Wanbao. He said that he felt sorry for Kai Li, and warned fans not to be duped by such scammers.
Tan said he would never initiate conversations with fans over social media, and would only communicate with fans through his fan club. He said he would never ask fans for money.
The Mediacorp actor said fake accounts pretending to be him had been created in recent years, and the problem had become more serious this year.
Just two weeks ago, another local actress, Fann Wong, also warned fans not to fall prey to a scammer impersonating her on social media who was asking people for their personal details.