Police warn of new trend in online scams; NSF loses over $6,700 in savings

One victim was offered a job as an affiliate marketing associate and told he was required to make advance purchases on an e-commerce site to boost sales.
One victim was offered a job as an affiliate marketing associate and told he was required to make advance purchases on an e-commerce site to boost sales.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - He wanted to make a quick buck from a part-time job, but ended up losing nearly all of his savings.

Mr Johnson Poon, a 20-year-old full-time national serviceman, was offered a job as an affiliate marketing associate and was promised a daily salary of between $300 and $500.

But it came with a catch.

He was told that he was required to make advance purchases for products on e-commerce site Shopee to boost sales and was assured that he would get his money back plus a small commission after an item was purchased.

Instead of paying for the products on the platform, though, Mr Poon was instructed to transfer money to a bank account number provided by the scammer.

Mr Poon sensed that the deal was too good to be true, but was convinced by the scammers that they were part of a marketing team in Shopee to boost "click rates" for certain products.

Within minutes of taking up the job on Monday (May 10), Mr Poon made a $15 profit from two assignments that involved transferring $40 and $150 of his own money.

Emboldened, he heeded instructions to transfer larger sums totalling $2,200.

The scammers then claimed that they could not pay him back as his job account had been frozen due to "settlement issues".

Mr Poon had to pay hefty fees amounting to more than $4,500 to fix those issues.

"I just wanted to get my money back so I did what they told me to," he said.

By the end of the day, he had transferred more than $6,700 to them.

Realising he had been cheated, Mr Poon lodged a police report on Monday night.

Investigations are continuing.

In a statement on Wednesday, the police described such scams as a "new trend" and advised members of the public not to accept dubious job offers that promise lucrative returns for minimal effort.



The police advise members of the public not to accept dubious job offers that promise lucrative returns for minimal effort. 
PHOTOS: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

The police added that customers should always complete their purchase on the e-commerce platform. Making advance payments or direct bank transfers does not offer any protection, the police said.

"In most cheating cases like this, the money hardly ever comes back... this scam took away a good 88 per cent of the savings I had," Mr Poon told The Straits Times, adding that he had been saving to pay for his living expenses when he goes to university.

E-commerce scams like the one involving Mr Poon were the most commonly reported type of scam last year, with 3,354 cases reported, a jump of 19.1 per cent compared with 2019.

The total amount involved increased to $6.9 million, from $2.3 million in 2019. The largest sum cheated in a single case was $1.9 million.