Hawker loses $500 to man posing as food reporter

Police reports lodged against man who said he was from Shin Min Daily, selling ad deals

A man posing as a Shin Min Daily News food reporter allegedly cheated a hawker at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre of $500.

The incident happened last Monday at the Pek Kio Seafood Delights stall at 41, Cambridge Road, Shin Min reported yesterday.

The hawker, identified as Mrs Chen, and the Chinese evening daily have both lodged police reports.

The 55-year-old who sells seafood soup, told Shin Min that a man with curly hair and a black top visited her stall last Monday. He claimed to be a food reporter from the paper, and wanted to sell her advertising packages.

"He said he was well-known and often appeared in food shows," said Mrs Chen. "I was a bit wary and asked for identification but he changed the subject and asked me if I had watched the shows."

The man claimed he had already interviewed six of the "170 seafood white beehoon stalls in Singapore" and that her stall had been selected from the list.

Last Friday, Shin Min posted a notice on its Facebook page, saying it would also file a police report. "Shin Min would like to clarify that it did not send anyone to sell the above-mentioned packages, and hopes businesses will be on the alert," it said in Chinese.

"He asked us if we wanted to be interviewed and said it would be free, I thought it wouldn't hurt so I accepted."

The man then arranged for her to prepare three dishes for the next day and said he would return with two other reporters for the interview. However, he came back alone the following day with a luggage bag and backpack, said Mrs Chen, and started promoting culinary certificates.

Mrs Chen said: "He wanted to sell us a package worth $2,900 and said the certificate would be valid for three years, and would include publicity in newspapers, magazines and online.

"I felt it was expensive and hesitated, and that's when he said he would let me pay in instalments. But an instalment of $500 would mean the cert was valid for only three months."

Mrs Chen handed over the money, after which she said the man took photos of one dish with his tablet and left.

He could not be contacted after that and she made a police report.

The police confirmed with The Sunday Times that a report had been lodged, and said investigations are ongoing.

Last Friday, Shin Min posted a notice on its Facebook page, saying it would also file a police report.

"Shin Min would like to clarify that it did not send anyone to sell the above-mentioned packages, and hopes businesses will be on the alert," it said in Chinese.

Journalists usually do not accept payment for reviews.

The Straits Times and The Sunday Times pay for all their meals at eateries which they review.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Hawker loses $500 to man posing as food reporter'. Print Edition | Subscribe