Lured by $2 payout, woman in S'pore lost over $70,000 in job scam

The Singapore police advise people not to accept dubious job offers that offer lucrative returns for minimal effort.
The Singapore police advise people not to accept dubious job offers that offer lucrative returns for minimal effort.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - All it took was a few clicks to like a few videos and comments on a social media page, and Amanda (not her real name) earned $2.

"I thought it was a pretty simple task," she said, adding that she was paid via PayNow.

But that easy money, introduced to her via a WhatsApp message from a foreign number, was the bait that landed her in a job scam - causing her to lose more than $70,000 in three days last month.

In May, another woman reported losing $40,000 in two hours in a job scam, after she responded to a WhatsApp message.

The Singapore Police Force told The Straits Times there were 133 cases of job scams reported last year that amounted to about $220,000. There were 36 cases reported in 2019, with victims losing about $72,000 in all.

This year's figures are not yet available, but the police issued a warning in May about a new trend of fake job scams. Such scams involve Facebook advertisements or unsolicited WhatsApp messages offering a part-time job as an affiliate marketing associate on e-commerce platforms.

On June 16, Amanda responded to an offer - from the same foreign number on WhatsApp - of at least $200 per day for home-based work. The same day, she was assigned her first tasks by "Wendy", who communicated with her only via WhatsApp.

She was then told she could earn more commission on another online platform, where she would help to complete orders and earn a commission on the cart amounts, which varied.

She had to register for an account on the platform and complete 60 orders a day to withdraw her earnings. On the platform's main page, she had to click a "grab order" button, then click a submit button on a pop-up - a process that took under a minute.

Wendy also gave her a referral code that supposedly gave her 16 per cent of her commission.

On June 18, Amanda ran into a hitch after processing a few orders. She was unable to submit an order, and saw a negative figure on the platform's main page, she said.

Wendy said it was a "double order" on which they could earn a higher commission. Amanda was instructed to contact customer service and make an upfront payment to cover the negative sum to complete the order.

She transferred $180 to a bank account on the first day and $1,000 the next, and was paid about $30 and $200 in commission for those two days.

"I did manage to withdraw my money and commission, hence I continued for another day," she said.

On June 20, however, she was required to transfer $42,000 for the 59th order. By then, she had borrowed more than $70,000 from her friends for earlier transactions.

The next day, desperate for funds, she contacted a legal moneylender but was told that her salary did not meet the requirement.

Deciding to call it quits, she called her bank to reverse her previous transactions. The bank told her that she might be a victim of a scam and she made a police report the same day.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said: "People who fall for the simple work, where they only use their mobile phone and can earn money in their spare time, may find the proposition too attractive to be missed."

The police also advise people not to accept dubious job offers that offer lucrative returns for minimal effort and require them to use their personal bank accounts to perform money transfers for others.

Looking back on her ordeal, Amanda said: "I was too impulsive and wanted to earn quick and easy money. But ultimately there is no easy way out.

"One should not give in to these kinds of temptations, especially in this tough period where it may be hard to earn money. No matter how nice it may sound, it is actually too good to be true."