More than 800 cheated in e-commerce scams on online marketplace Carousell

There were 900 e-commerce scams and 349 Internet love scams recorded from January to June this year.
There were 900 e-commerce scams and 349 Internet love scams recorded from January to June this year.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 800 people have fallen prey to e-commerce scams taking place at online marketplace Carousell this year, amid an increased wave of online scams in Singapore.

The number form the majority of e-commerce scams - which involve victims making payment for online purchases that are not delivered to them - reported in Singapore.

There were 900 cases involving losses of $691,700 in the first half this year, a dip from the $881,400 last year from 1,006 reported cases.

The police also said on Thursday (Oct 26) that there was a 26 per cent year-on-year increase in e-commerce scams and Internet love scams between July and September, though it did not provide a breakdown between the two types of scams.

When contacted, a Carousell spokesman told The Straits Times said there have been over 20 million successful transactions on the portal since its launch in 2012, and that the fraud incidence rate is less than 0.1 per cent of all transactions.

"However, we recognise the impact of fraud on our community and are working hard to improve our detection tools and teams. We have features such as user feedback, user verification, and have developments in the pipeline to improve these features," said the spokesman.

"We also employ artificial intelligence to improve our fraud detection and have dedicated teams in place to monitor our marketplace. We take feedback and complaints seriously and users should report any suspicious activity so that our team is alerted to the problem and can proceed to take the necessary actions."

Citing the risks involved in buying and selling of goods in online and offline marketplaces, the spokesman said the portal makes it a point to regularly share safety tips and encourage its users to be cautious and practice due diligence when arranging deals.

"In general, we also advise users to arrange for meet-ups and cash on delivery so they can physically inspect the goods and ensure they have all the necessary information before closing a deal," the spokesman added.

"If at any point buyers or sellers are uncomfortable with the proposed arrangement, we urge them not to proceed with the deal and look for an alternative."

The police on Thursday advised users of the site to meet the seller in person before making any payment.

In some cases, scammers may try to attain victims' trust by showing copies of an Identification Card or driver's licence. These may not belong to the scammer.

The police advised people to check whether such documents are valid on the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's iEnquiry portal at https://ienquiry.ica.gov.sg/mobile/vCheck.do.

The police also said there were 349 Internet love scams recorded from January to June this year. Its half-year crime stats released in August also cited 349 cases of Internet love scams, which involve online casanovas swooning potential victims into giving them money.

Such scams saw losses totalling over $22.1 million from January to June, which was up from the $11.2 million lost in the same period last year from 277 reported cases.

The police said on Thursday that it has observed an increasing number of victims targeted in love scams offering their ATM cards, PINs and bank accounts for the scammer's use.

Many said they were instructed by their online lovers to do so. These "lovers" said they needed Singapore ATM cards for businesses in neighbouring countries, among other excuses.

These "lovers" are actually criminals based in other countries, who were using the compromised bank accounts to receive money from various scams targeting Singaporeans.

The police gave a stern warning that bank account holders are accountable for any transaction made in their account, even if it is made by a scammer.

Any account used to receive criminal proceeds will be frozen for investigation and the bank account holder will be investigated.

Furthermore, the bank account holder will be liable for money laundering offences, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $500,000.

Those who suspect that their bank accounts were abused by someone they met online should not deal with the money but instead inform the police immediately.