Singaporeans have a reputation of being hardworking, a stickler for the rules and… thanks to how safe the country is, a bit naive. And given how numerous scams in Singapore are and how freaking easy it is to scam us, that’s probably true.
No thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to scam people, in particular older folks who have not kept up with modern conmen’s wily ways.
Here’s a crazy news story for you: this Singaporean English teacher got targeted by an internet love scammer, who wanted to use her to temporarily keep funds he’d earned from scams in her bank account. She then went ahead and scammed him right back by keeping the money instead—so she could transfer it to love scammers who were scamming her.
Huh?! That’s too much scamming at one go.
Here are some common scams to watch out for:
Online scams in Singapore
It’s no surprise that online platforms are now a key way scammers reach potential victims. Below are some dime-a-dozen scams that are so common, you’ve probably crossed paths with them yourself.
One of the most common platforms where scammers operate is Carousell. Because people are so willing to exchange money for goods on the platform, many have started to abuse this trust in order to run off with people’s cash.
If a Carouseller insists you transfer money to him before receiving an item, be suspicious, and if he insists you pay extra charges like GST, head for the hills.
Then there are sellers that get you to pay for your item in advance and then fail to send it to you. To protect yourself from such occurrences, only buy from Carousellers with a proven track record, get them to send you the item by registered mail so the package can be tracked and insist on meeting up if the item is expensive.
To err on the safe side, you might even want to use Caroupay, the in-app feature that holds your payment until the transaction is done and both parties are satisfied.
Some Carousell scammers also ask that you send them a picture of your IC before completing a transaction. Never ever do that, as the information on your IC can be used for identity theft.
Due to the number of people looking for love online these days, love scams are on the rise. A love scammer typically targets a lonely person using a social network such as Facebook or a dating site such as Tinder.
After investing many hours chatting and building up a romantic connection, the scammer predictably asks for money, usually on the pretext of a grave emergency. One Singaporean woman lost $1.1 million, so never underestimate the power of “love”.
Virtually every Singaporean uses WhatsApp, so of course scammers have taken to the platform. Scammers are reportedly taking over WhatsApp accounts. They do this by hijacking accounts and then using them to contact potential victims, asking them to transfer money, buy gift cards and so on.
In order to hijack accounts, they use a compromised account to send messages to friends of that account holder asking for their WhatsApp verification code. Once they get hold of the verification code, they proceed to take over the friend’s WhatsApp account, too.
While more and more people are phone phobic, it appears that the scammers are still reliant on this channel. Not long ago, there was the DHL scam, where the caller would tell you that they were calling from DHL and that you have a parcel with them. You can only get it released if you transfer a certain sum.
There were also the Microsoft phone scams, where they would tell you that your computer is seriously affected by some virus and then instruct you to give them remote access to your computer so they can help you solve it. With remote access, they can then access wallets like Paypal or carry out credit card transfers.
Then of course, there are the virtual kidnappers, people who call to tell you they’ve kidnapped your child and require you to transfer a sum of money for the kid to be released, when they don’t actually have your child.
If it’s a phone call that is unsolicited and the caller sounds strange, just stay calm, hang up immediately and verify the information through official channels first.
Cryptocurrency & e-commerce scams
Investment scams are big here in Singapore, as many people are willing to throw caution to the wind in hopes of making a quick buck.
You’re probably heard of the gold buyback scams. Well, cryptocurrency scammers are using the same tactics by promising huge returns. These scams have investors throwing in their money into what they think is an investment, and later finding themselves unable to get it back when the payouts mysteriously stop. Some scammers also ask for personal and financial details that can later be used for identity theft and to hack accounts. One example of this is the Bitcoin Revolution scam.
When it comes to e-commerce scams, the majority actually takes place on Carousell, but there are some new ones popping up.
One of these scams targets victims who are trying to buy mobile phones online. They get tricked into giving out their personal information when signing up for a purported instalment package. A sum of money gets deposited in their account without their knowing, and they are then charged ridiculous interest rates on it.
Rental scams in Singapore
Scammers are targeting landlords (not tenants!) in a new wave of landlord rental scams. One iteration of this scam is a phishing scam in which the tenant says they will pay you first. They ask for your account details and personal details like NRIC number. Then they use the information to hack your accounts.
In another scam, a tenant rents your property, and then sublets it to someone else without your knowledge. They usually pay a few months’ rent, and then skip town and happily collect the rent from the subtenant. Eventually, when your rent stops coming in, you turn up at the property to find out what’s going on only to find a total stranger living there.
There is another iteration of this scam, which happens when the tenant simply sublets your property at a higher price on Airbnb. This can go on for a long time without your ever knowing, so make sure you inspect your property from time to time.
There are other landlord rental scams, including using your property to store illegal goods like drugs or pirated DVDs, or using your property as a brothel. The key here is to inspect the property often and talk to the neighbours so they can warn you if something smells fishy.
How do you know if you’re being scammed?
Hopefully, you will realise you are being scammed BEFORE you have lost millions. Here are some red flags:
- You are being asked to transfer or receive money, or to purchase items like gift cards.
- You are asked to pay for something in advance before receiving the item.
- You are being asked to transfer payment somewhere when it is not usually standard practice (eg. in the case of Carousell where payment is usually made in cash in person).
- You are being asked for your NRIC, personal details, banking details or passwords/pin codes.
- An investment opportunity sounds too good to be true.
Check out Scam Alert to keep abreast of the latest scams in Singapore.
How to report a scam in Singapore?
Call 1800-722-6688 if you think you’ve been scammed. This is a dedicated hotline maintained by the police and the National Crime Prevention Council for victims of scams in Singapore.
You can also call the hotline if you suspect someone is trying to scam you or simply to ask for advice.
Once you are sure you are being scammed, your next step would be to file a police report. Furnish any documents, screenshots and online conversations so the police will have more evidence and leads.
Even if they are not able to nab the scammer, your report will provide the authorities with the information they need to warn others of future scam attempts.
What to do if you’re already scammed?
To be honest, the chances of getting your money back are quite low. Many scams in Singapore are operated by criminals based overseas and will never be caught.
The only way you can get your money back is if the scammer is nabbed, charged in court and found guilty of scamming you specifically, and the court decides to make him compensate you (there is no guarantee that the latter will happen).
Have you ever been scammed? Share your stories in the comments!
Personal finance tips delivered to your inbox!
Receive news, subscriber-exclusive promotions and guides on how to become smarter with money.
We promise never to spam you!