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Sunday, Jul 6, 2014

Singapore

Cleaner cheated of $400,000: More than 70 readers offer to help

The Straits Times | Sunday, Jul 6, 2014

More than 70 people who read about how Madam Goh Kah Keow was cheated of her life savings by con artists have come forward to help the cleaner.

SINGAPORE - Besides offering cash - one couple sent a cheque for $1,000 for Madam Goh Kah Keow - and groceries, five readers also said they wanted to pay for her massage sessions. This after they read that Madam Goh had rheumatic knees, which needed regular therapy that cost $40 for each session.


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The elderly cleaner, who was cheated of her life savings by con artists from China, was afraid of growing old with no money

It took her more than 60 years of sweat and toil to squirrel away $400,000. But in less than half a day, the 74-year-old lost her entire life savings to five con artists from China last November.

Her case hit the headlines in mid-June, after two of the five Chinese nationals were jailed more than eight years in total for their heartless scam. The other three grifters remain at large.

While many Singaporeans felt for Madam Goh, there were also those who wondered how an uneducated and unskilled worker came to have so much savings.

It was, ironically, a fear of growing old without a nest egg that led to her frugal and resilient ways, she tells SundayLife!.

"When I was very young, older people used to tell me that growing old without money was a terrible thing. That frightened me," recalls Madam Goh, who is single and lives alone in a studio flat in eastern Singapore.

That comment also propelled her to work hard. The third of seven siblings, Madam Goh says her family was too poor to send her to school. From the tender age of 10, she started earning her own keep, first as a babysitter, then as a washer woman. She was also a factory worker for a while and took on a host of cleaning jobs.

"I worked so hard. I would work on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes, I would try to pack in three different cleaning jobs one after another, just to earn extra cash," she says in Mandarin.

Multiple jobs aside, she would also collect newspapers to sell.

"I think I fell in love with money," says Madam Goh, who has never married. "I did not find any work tough. Everything that I could do with my hands to earn money, I did."

She would spend little of her earnings, saving between 50 and 70 per cent of her monthly pay. She now earns about $700 monthly as a part-time cleaner.

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