Teacher loses $4,000 to job hoax; 19 held for similar scams

$6.5m lost to job scams in first 6 months against $60,000 in the same period last year

A 32-year-old teacher in Singapore had hoped to earn some extra money from a part-time job to support her family, but she ended up nearly $4,000 poorer.

Beatrice (not her real name) decided to take on the role of an "online assistant" that came with an attractive monthly salary of $8,000 after seeing multiple ads for the job on social media platforms.

The task was simple. She had to purchase products on e-commerce site Shopee to boost sales and was promised her money back plus a small commission.

Instead of paying through Shopee, she was told to transfer the money to a bank account number provided by the scammers.

Beatrice was doubtful at first. "I found it weird that the job was advertised on social media and with such a high salary," she said.

But she was convinced by the scammers that they were part of a marketing team in Shopee boosting the profiles of merchants by increasing their customer base.

"It seemed legitimate because there were over 100 people in the WhatsApp group chat and they even gave me an employee ID number," said Beatrice, who is married with a son.

On Sept 18, she made a $45 profit from two assignments that involved transferring $130 and $320 of her own money. As she grew more confident, she transferred a larger sum of $1,900.

She was then told she had to complete additional assignments and would not get her money unless she transferred another $1,900.

Afraid of losing her money, she did as she was told. But the scammers then told her to transfer $8,000 to "complete the task".

Beatrice realised she had been cheated and made a police report. She has yet to recover her loss.

The police said in a statement yesterday they had arrested 19 suspects - 16 men and three women - for their involvement in a variation of this job scam during a two-day enforcement operation earlier this week.

Aged between 18 and 35, the suspects are believed to have opened or rented out bank accounts to scammers, recruited victims and fraudulently registered mobile phone lines.

Investigations are ongoing.

In these cases, victims were promised quick returns for completing simple tasks like following social media accounts and liking posts to boost viewership.

But it came with a catch. Victims had to first pay for a "member package" costing $10 to a few thousand dollars using cryptocurrency or by bank transfer to unknown persons.

"In most cases, the victims were convinced that it was a legitimate job, as they received commissions in the early stages of getting their memberships," the police said.

"They realised they had been scammed when they stopped receiving commissions or were unable to make withdrawals from their member accounts."

A total of $6.5 million was lost to job scams in the first half of this year, a huge leap from $60,000 in the same period last year.

The police advise the public not to accept dubious job offers that promise lucrative returns for minimal effort.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'Teacher loses $4,000 to job hoax; 19 held for similar scams'. Subscribe