Stop Scams podcast: Carousell warns of property sale, concert ticket scams

(From left) Carousell marketplace experience specialist Jessica Chen, Carousell associate product manager Lavone Toh, ST crime correspondent David Sun, ST Deputy News Editor Andre Yeo, podcast producer Teo Tong Kai and journalist Jessie Lim. ST PHOTO: PAXTON PANG

SINGAPORE - Faced with a hot property market, would-be tenants here are willing to spend up to $500 to secure a property viewing.

And scammers are on the lookout to exploit them.

Revealing this to The Straits Times, e-commerce marketplace Carousell said that fraudsters create fake listings, claiming they require a deposit to be paid up front for a property viewing to be set up.

The sum, of course, does not go to a legitimate property agent but to scammers.

Ms Jessica Chen, a policy and escalation manager at Carousell, said she has observed how both foreigners and Singaporeans have fallen victim to rental scams.

Ms Chen, who identifies scam listings and works with the Singapore Police Force to remove them, was speaking to The Straits Times on the sixth episode of the Stop Scams podcast, which will be broadcast on June 15.

She was joined by her colleague, Ms Lavone Toh, an associate product manager, who works with teams that build safety features for the Carousell website and mobile app.

The Stop Scams podcast is a series by ST to raise greater public awareness of the modern scourge of scams. In Singapore, more than $1 billion has been lost by scam victims since 2016.

During the episode, the duo recounted memorable experiences they have had on the front line of the e-commerce marketplace's fight against scams, which has intensified in recent years.

A few months ago, a man in his 60s showed up at Carousell's office in Buona Vista, demanding to speak to "Amy", who allegedly worked in the human resources department.

Ms Chen said: "He (told us) how he had been scammed of a few thousand dollars... I looked into our company chat. There was no person (called Amy)."

After talking to him some more, she realised the man had fallen victim to a job scam. He had met the scammer on Facebook, where she enticed him with a commission-based job involving the completion of simple tasks, such as transferring funds from his bank account to those provided by "Amy".

In return, he would receive a commission.

The man realised he had been scammed after a few transfers, when he stopped receiving a commission and did not get his money back.

Ms Chen said: "(I told him) I'm so sorry uncle, you have to file a police report."

Commenting on how sophisticated scammers like "Amy" can be, Ms Chen added: "I went to see her Facebook account, it's quite legitimate. This person is just posting about how she is having dinner. The history goes back years. Nowadays, scammers put in a lot of effort to build that social trust."

Both Ms Chen and Ms Toh also said that in 2022, scammers have moved away from enticing victims with items that were popular during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as face masks and hand sanitiser, to luxury goods and concert tickets.

During the podcast, they discussed how Carousell has taken steps to tackle these new threats, such as designing in-app pop-up messages to warn Carousell users when they are eyeing popular items known to have false listings, such as staycation deals.

The speakers also said that Carousell users can shop online more safely by joining WhatsApp groups which keep members updated on the latest scam trends, and by using its escrow service, Carousell Protection.

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