Jerald Low is a con artist. However, unlike usual con artists, he does not care whether you know his true identity. In reality, this is the purpose of his method of operation.
“He is here in front of you, speaking, and breathing,” said Leong Wing Tuck, an assistant public prosecutor. “In many online frauds, it is impossible to determine who is behind it. But Jerald’s different. He is a confidence manipulator.”
He gained the trust of more than ten victims, one of whom lost over S$100,000 as a result. He has been an eager-to-reconnect ex-classmate, an ambitious boss, and even a promising match from a dating app.
It took four years for the law to catch up with him. But when he was charged, he was so convincing that he had someone else take the blame in his place, sending the police on a wild goose chase.
Who is this person, exactly? What motivates him? Would you believe him even if he bared his soul on the CNA series Catching A Scammer?
In 2018, an ERA Realty Network property agent received a phone call from a friend who had a potential buyer to introduce.
A Singaporean with a “very affluent” Korean father and a substantial inheritance wished to create a collection of trophy mansions with a budget of S$20 million per residence.
He was known as Jerald Low. He was 24 years old and did not resemble a billionaire. However, this was not what prompted suspicion.
Eugene Lim, the chief executive officer of ERA, stated that in his thirty years of real estate experience, even the richest man would negotiate. Low, though, did not bat an eyelid. Immediately following each viewing, he made a down payment, whether it was S$55,000 or S$858,800.
In three days, he spent almost S$140 million for properties in Bishan, Orchard Road, and Grange, among other desirable locations.
This was “very” uncommon, and not just because of his age. According to the address provided on his NRIC, he actually resided in a HDB flat, said Lim.
His background investigation was negative. He was not on the watch lists of the Monetary Authority of Singapore or the United Nations Security Council. His father, whose identity he provided, was confirmed to be a wealthy Korean.
But all of Low’s issued checks turned out to be worthless. He stated there was a delay in getting his inheritance when pressed. “It dragged on for quite some time… so that was the end of the transactions,” said Lim.
However, Low had no interest in the homes.
He desired the selfies he had shot in the opulent penthouses and the legal documents proving he had made down payments and was prepared to purchase them – ammunition for the next round of his con.
Low reached out to Terrence Chew, a former secondary school classmate, via Facebook in September 2018. Chew recalled him as a “very quiet individual.” The 28-year-old stated, “One thing’s for certain, he didn’t cause any trouble in school.”
Low sent Chew a private message expressing interest in his position as a multi-level marketer selling lifestyle products.
Low was eager to gain as much knowledge as possible when they met, according to Chew. Chew remarked, “He was attentive and appeared really interested in doing something on the side.”
In the days that followed, Low gave his friend every reason to have faith in him. First, he informed Chew that his parents and relatives were eager to join the network, and that the more individuals who joined, the more money Chew would receive.
“He informed me that there were two people, then four, and then, I believe, about 15 others who wanted to join him,” Chew added.
This is where selfies entered the picture.
During meals, Low displayed photographs of himself with expensive automobiles and in various houses he claimed to have purchased. He claimed to have millions in his money account and appeared “competent” to Chew.
“I was considering… He is someone who is very significant to me at the moment,” Chew remarked.
One week later, when Low presented him with a business proposal for a bubble tea business called Fitness Tea, he readily agreed. Back then, Chew was also a fitness instructor.
Under both of their names, Fitness Tea was quickly registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.
Using Chew’s identity card number, Low signed contracts for six mobile lines that were packaged with the newest phone models.
Chew stated, “He stated that he would use the company’s account to pay these phone expenses.”
Low retained the phones in order to “configure them to the company line.”
However, he then issued checks for six business offices’ deposits. At that point, Chew began to become skeptical. He stated, “We were establishing a bubble tea firm.” Why did you need so many offices to operate a little store?
To avoid inquiries, Low offered him a monthly payment of S$10,000. But the check never arrived. He approached Low, who made him feel guilty for being suspicious.
Low finally removed Chew’s name from the business and disappeared from view.
Chew terminated all cell lines in order to stop incurring losses on phone bills. However, the early termination fees alone cost him almost $10,000.
He informed the police about Low.
But what inspired Low? Why is he acting this way? His background, as he recounted from inside Changi Prison, included a “terrible” upbringing and being “looked down on since boyhood.”
“My parents are divorced,” stated the 28-year-old, who was raised by his mother and grandmother. “At school, my peers made fun of me for not having a father.”
He stated that he desired wealth in 2018 because his family was unable to pay his grandmother’s hospital fees. His mother was diagnosed with cancer as well.
“All I wanted was the money so I could pay off my debts,” he explained.
Therefore, he used Google. “One of the websites (I discovered) had a specific technique for teaching fraud,” he claimed. This only works with close friends and family members.
He attempted to appear wealthy to attract individuals who were not his close pals.
The plan, which he claimed to have read about in the newspaper, was to convince individuals to sign up for mobile lines and then sell the phones for a profit.
“I am aware that it is their hard-earned cash,” he remarked. “However, at that time I did not consider the consequences.”
He expressed regret for his actions, especially because he had caused his mother pain. She had attended his court appearance and monthly prison visits. Three months after he began serving his term, she passed away, and he felt he had “lost everything.”
He expressed “sincere remorse” to those he had harmed.
“Nothing I’ve done can ever be undone,” he admitted. “I do hope that I can prove to all the victims and everyone around me that… I am a transformed individual.”