More than 50 cheated of $40,000 in latest scam involving iPhones

More than 50 cheated of $40,000 in latest scam involving iPhones

SINGAPORE - She wanted to buy an iPhone for her friend as a birthday present.

But she ended up losing $1,500 in an online shopping scam, she claimed.

Her case is one of 53 involving "mixed delivery order" scams reported to the police in the last two months.

That's more than twice the number of cases reported for the whole of last year, a police press release said on Sept 6.

The total amount cheated in the last two months? A whopping $40,000.

The 24-year-old administration executive, who wanted to be known as Nursha, had wanted to buy a new white 16GB iPhone 5 for her friend's birthday in July.

The phone retails at $948, but she thought she could get a better deal buying from overseas dealers.

She said: "I heard it is cheaper to buy from overseas because of the lower manpower costs to sell the phone."

Through the Internet, she came across posts in online forums by users wanting to sell phones. One caught her eye - an offer to sell the phone at $500, posted by a woman who was selling it through a company.

Ms Nursha was keen and she contacted the woman via e-mail.

In an e-mail exchange forwarded to The New Paper, the person asked her to pay by depositing $500 into a local bank account.

"Payment is to be made before delivery," the woman wrote.

Ms Nursha made the deposit on July 15.

But that evening, she was informed that there was a "mix-up" with her order - her package had apparently been sent to Hong Kong. Another package - containing nine smartphones worth $5,500 - was instead being sent to her.

The woman claimed via e-mail that the courier offers only a "one-way delivery service", meaning the mix-up could be rectified only by collecting the package and sending it back.

But the package would not reach Ms Nursha unless she paid an additional "assurance fee" of $3,000, the woman wrote.

Said Ms Nursha: "I felt trapped. I had already paid $500. If I didn't fork out the assurance fee, my money would go to waste."

Ms Nursha managed to bargain the assurance fee down to $1,000, but was still hesitant to pay. She relented only after she received a letter from the company promising to "refund" her once the "mixed-up" package was received. This letter was signed by the company's chief executive.

Ms Nursha paid the assurance fee. But the package never came, she claimed.

When she tried contacting the woman via WhatsApp, the woman blocked her number. That was when Ms Nursha realised she had been scammed.

She ended up giving her friend an organiser as a birthday present.

Said Ms Nursha: "I was convinced to foot the extra fee because the bank account was a local one, and because of the 'letters' I received promising a refund.

"Somehow, a local bank account made the seller seem more credible. But I don't know if her company is actually based in Singapore or if she herself is Singaporean."

The woman did not respond to our e-mails and WhatsApp messages requesting her side of the story. Her company is also not registered here, our checks with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority Singapore revealed.

But an online search showed that the woman had posted ads on several online forums like HardwareZone and SgForums.

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