After saving up money for two years to pay for her wedding, a Singaporean woman has lost over S$17,000 (US$12,544) after answering to a job posting that turned out to be a scam.
Going by the alias Iris, she originally found an advertisement for a part-time marketing gig on Facebook. The gig’s deal was attractive: It could be done online, and the hours were flexible. Thinking that she could earn some extra money for her wedding, she answered to the job posting.
The response from the hirer came immediately, informing her that she was hired as an affiliate marketing associate, allegedly for the e-commerce platform Qoo10.
She was then told to use her own money to pay in advance for some of the products on the platform in order to give the sales figures a boost. The hirer told her she would be reimbursed for it with a small commission.
Having only communicated through WhatsApp with the hirer, Iris was then added into a WhatsApp group where most of the instructions given to her were from people with foreign telephone numbers.
“I thought it was strange that (the scammers) told me to make payment to a bank account they provided, instead of paying on the platform,” Iris said. “But I brushed it off thinking I was paying directly to the merchant’s bank account.”
Within an hour of receiving her instructions, she had transferred S$620 (US$457.50) to them and was paid about S$100 (US$73.80) in profits from “purchasing” four items on the platform.
Upon receiving S$720 (US$531.30) in her bank account, she took on another task that required her to transfer S$1,600 (US$1,180.70) to buy a mini desktop.
That’s when it started turning bad.
When she did not get back her money, she reached out to the hirers, who then claimed that they could not pay her back because she had taken more than 10 minutes to complete her task.
Having not been informed about such time constraints, she was then asked to do “overtime tasks” if she wanted to get her funds back. She did as they said, continuing on with her transfers in hopes of getting her money back. Despite this, they kept telling her that she either did the task wrongly, or too slowly.
In a matter of hours, she had spent more than S$17,000 (US$12,544) on various “purchases”, consisting of desktops, gym equipment, watches, video games, and jewelry from six different merchants.
“Getting my money back was all I could think about. I just followed instructions because I thought that was my only hope,” she explained.
Despite her pleas to the WhatsApp group administrator, she was ignored. It was then she decided to lodge a police report, as well as tell her fiancé about what had happened.
They decided to postpone their wedding for now.
“I lost almost everything I’d been saving up for my wedding. I was naive and too eager to make money that it didn’t even cross my mind that it could be a scam,” she said. “The toughest part has been keeping this a secret from my family. I’m too ashamed to tell them, and I don’t want them to worry. I can only tell them I’m putting off the wedding due to COVID-19.”
E-commerce platform Qoo10 has come out to say that it is aware of job scams where scammers pretend to be their business partners. Clarifying that the company is not associated with any recruitment agency on SMS, Facebook, or Instagram, it urged customers to report these advertisements to the police when they see it.
How do you avoid being scammed?
The Home Team Behavioral Sciences Center developed the 6S Anti-Scam Self-Protection Principles, a guideline they encourage Singaporeans to adhere to in order to defend themselves against scams such as this.
The 6S are:
1. Spot the signs.
Recognize the tactics that scammers use.
2. Stop and think.
Ask yourself or others if a statement, message, or job offer could be true.
3. Slow down, don’t rush.
Do not rush into providing your personal or banking details.
4. Speak to others.
Check with others to verify the authenticity of a claim before doing anything.
5. Safeguard personal details and passwords.
Never disclose personal information, even if the request appears to be legitimate.
6. Seek help.
Talk to friends or family members for advice or support if you have been impacted by a scam.