It’s been a busy year for scammers targeting Singaporeans. The first half of 2017 saw more than $22 million being lost to online scams.
349 of these cases were love scams, many perpetrated by online Lotharios preying on unsuspecting lonely hearts.
But far more cases—900, to be exact—were e-commerce scams. And this is a trend that’s expected to continue upwards.
Here are some of the more prominent online e-commerce scams that surfaced in 2017, and what you can do to not get duped.
Seller does not deliver item after payment has been made
This is one of the most common scams in the book, and used to be quite common on platforms such as Yahoo Auctions and eBay. Scammers have since followed the crowds to Carousell.
The most common iteration of the scam is to agree to purchase something on Carousell, and to transfer the money to the seller in exchange for the item being delivered to you. Of course, the seller subsequently fails to deliver the items and runs off with the money.
These scammers often sell items that people need urgently, such as tickets to a sold-out concert that is happening soon.
Seller sells defective goods and then refuses to refund
This scam is particularly common when it comes to electronics like smartphones, tablets and laptops. The seller will meet up with you and agree to let you inspect the item, which looks fine in the few minutes you have to test it out.
But afterwards, you discover that the item is defective. When you contact the seller to ask for a refund, he either ignores you or sends threatening messages to scare you away.
Seller’s goods turn out to be inauthentic
Since time immemorial, sellers of counterfeit designer goods have tried to convince gullible buyers that their goods are real. This used to happen a lot on eBay, and it’s now happening on Carousell.
Basically, you spend thousands of bucks on a Chanel handbag, only to discover that it looks like it belongs at Patpong Market. While some sellers will grudgingly accept a refund, others will insist that they sold you the real thing.
Scammer insists that seller transfer money to them in order to receive payment
This is a scam that targets sellers, instead of buyers, and seems to have originated in Nigeria.
What happens is that the scammers target buyers and express interest in buying their items. They then claim that they’ve transferred payment to some account. The seller than receives notice that they need to pay a certain amount in order to claim the money in that account.
Obviously, once they do that they discover that they’ve been scammed and that there won’t be any payment coming their way.
Fake online shopping websites
We’ve grown so accustomed to shopping online that most of us don’t think twice about whipping out our credit cards to pay for something on a halfway-decent looking online shopping site. How often do you actually bother to find out if a site is the real deal?
But making a purchase on a fake online shopping means you lose more than the money you’ve knowingly paid. These sites are often unsecured and making a “purchase” on them basically means you’ve given the scammers your credit card details.
So how can you ensure you don’t get duped by any of the above? Here are some tips:
1. Only hand over cash when meeting up with a seller in person
No matter how much more convenient it is to have items delivered to you, always request to meet up and exchange the goods/cash in person. If the seller refuses to meet up and does not have many positive reviews, take your business elsewhere.
Note that if you’re paying a large sum of money you can’t afford to lose, you should not even want to trust positive reviews, as these are easily faked or might be for unrelated transactions.
2. Even if the seller shows his ID, that doesn’t mean he can be trusted
Some sellers will show you a copy of their purported IC or driver’s licence, but there is no guarantee they are not using someone else’s ID, so never take that as proof that they can be trusted.
3. If you’re selling something, never transfer money to the buyer
No matter how much money a buyer has offered for an item you’re selling, you should never, ever have to transfer a single cent in order to receive that money.
If you are asked to transfer any cash to receive payment, report the buyer to the police immediately.
4. Always check the legitimacy of an online shopping site before using it
When shopping online, you want to make sure you are shopping at a reliable, secured shopping site, not some scam. Some googling should be able to quickly give you an idea of how reliable a site is.
However, just because you’ve googled the brand’s name doesn’t mean you can automatically trust it. There’s also the possibility that an imposter has created a fake version of the site to lure people who become easy prey because they’ve heard of the brand name they’re using.
Pay attention to URLs and examine the website thoroughly. Also google for information on the brand and obtain links to the site’s URL, making sure they are the same as that of the site you are thinking of shopping at.
Have you ever fallen prey to an e-commerce scam? Share your stories in the comments.