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He received a call last month claiming to be from a courier company, which said that Shanghai customs officials had intercepted a parcel in his name containing 16 credit cards.He was transferred to someone who claimed to be a police officer and was "convinced" by the phone number that showed on his caller ID, which appeared to be a number linked to the police.The man told John he would repay the original amount, with interest, after his business problems were resolved.

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In fact, intelligent people who are confident of themselves may sometimes be "more at risk".

Dr Lim says: "Once a scammer persuades them, they may be less likely to question their own judgment." He adds: "Certain hoaxes appeal to certain people, but the principle is the same, such as playing on a person's anxiety, which can be increased by the pressure of time, where the perpetrator does not give the victim time to verify things." Such misjudgments have a scientific explanation.

"I was tired and stressed and couldn't think in a logical way.

They made it seem like they were doing me a favour," recalls David.

One of these cases reported last month involved a $1.2-million remittance to a scammer posing as a boyfriend.

The police spokesman says: "With more people using their smartphones and the Internet for daily activities including shopping, phone and Internet scams have become a global phenomenon.

An elderly woman was recently cheated of .3 million, according to a report lodged with the Singapore Police Force.

It is the largest single amount scammed this year out of 61 similar cases.

Scam victims can come from "all walks of life", says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Hospital Singapore.

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