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When Yvonne left the bank in Hong Kong, she couldn't stop smiling.
She was genuinely happy to be giving a helping hand to her British boyfriend. However, before he did, he said he needed money for essential rig parts.
Yvonne, a year-old hospitality worker, who requested to withhold her surname for privacy, realised that her online date was nothing more than a con artist. Yvonne is hardly alone in falling prey to online romance scams in Hong Kong. According to data from the Hong Kong police, people in the territory were duped out of their savings between January and September this year.
In Hong Kong's romance scams, women are often nudged to transfer cash to their 'boyfriends' Credit: Alamy. The pandemic has increased this risk. With remote working becoming more common this year, many people have become lonelier and grown more desperate for connection.
These changes have provided an unexpected boon for catfishers, according to Hong Kong-based dating and relationship coach Valentina Tudose. They can say that they are stuck in quarantine or another city so they cannot meet in person.
In Hong Kong, women are particularly susceptible to online dating scams. Tudose says this gender imbalance stems from the hidden societal pressure women face in the city, despite Hong Kong's relatively high level of gender equality.
Girls were told by their parents that they should not date in schools or universities to focus on education, so they have little to no dating experience at the age of 24 or 25 even if they have a great job. This leaves many young women vulnerable to scammers who are fluent in manipulating their emotions. Pressure from families to find a partner leaves many single women vulnerable to falling for romance scams Credit: Alamy. Chan Lik-sam, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specialises in gender and sexuality, agrees that Hong Kong women are "facing contradictory demands about their romantic endeavours and gender roles".
While young women feel pressure to seek love and marriage, many unmarried older women are increasingly worried about their chances of having children, which opens them up to scams. Chan says additional pressure comes from the widespread cultural Chinese phenomenon that labels women "leftover" if they are not married by their late 20s or early 30s. This means they are no longer considered a success or a good potential partner. Kitty, a year-old media worker, encountered four online romance scams on dating apps.
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She could tell it was a scam and cut him off, but she admitted feeling vulnerable. When women feel like they are looking for that missing piece, they become emotionally very vulnerable, and tend to turn blind if people seem nice to them. Some are scared of loneliness.
That loneliness has been a pervasive theme of And it increasingly looks like many of the changes the pandemic has brought may endure, with many continuing to work from home, and fewer opportunities to travel and socialise. This could only increase the potential pool for romance scammers like those who preyed on Yvonne. After being scammed and having several other encounters with online dates asking for money, Yvonne has lost confidence in online dating. She says she no longer believes any profiles, and has stopped online dating for good.
I learnt how to focus on myself much more after having so many difficulties in my love life. We are all already complete. The Life Project. The Life Project Relationships. The 'romance scammers' cashing in on lockdown loneliness.
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Share using. By Chermaine Lee 1st December This feature uses a computer-generated synthetic voice. There may be some errors, for example in pronunciation, sentiment and tone. Lockdown isolation has been a boon for the con artists and catfishers targeting lonely Hong Kong women. When women feel like they are looking for that missing piece, they become emotionally very vulnerable — Kitty.
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