Singapore eCommerce scam victims lose $1m

Victims of eCommerce scams in Singapore have lost at least S$1 million (US$702,678) over the first nine months of this year, according to police.

During the period, 1491 cases were reported, up from 1336 last year. The largest amount lost by a single victim was more than $31,000.

Victims are often told to pay in advance for attractively priced items such as electronic gadgets and tickets. Some are then asked to make further payments for Customs clearance fees, delivery charges and taxes for their purchase. However, the goods are never delivered.

Police give the example of “John”, who thought he was getting a good deal for a PlayStation 4 advertised at $350 on the Carousell website. But several weeks later, following a call from the police, he realised he had fallen victim to a scam that left him $12,350 poorer.

He initially requested a refund from the seller after being told repeatedly there would be a delay in sending his video game console as there were issues with the supplier. The seller promised a full refund of $350 and an extra $100 for the inconvenience caused. But when they met up, the seller said he did not have money to refund John and had had to borrow $2000 to refund some other buyers.

Out of pity, John lent the man $12,000 so he could refund the other buyers first. He later learnt from the police there was no supplier and he had been duped.

In another case, a 20-year-old waiter made multiple payments for a rose-gold iPhone 6S he had seen on Craigslist for $650. The purchase did not materialise, and he lost $13,350 in the process. He had transferred $650 to the seller’s account, but was later asked to pay $600 for clearance fees. He also made other payments such as for bogus stamp duty. Finally, he was told to pay $3600 as clearance fees for five iPhones the seller claimed had been shipped over by accident. When asked to pay a further $6000, he decided to lodge a police report.

A new iPhone 6S, depending on specs, is priced from $1084 in Singapore.

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