Thousands raised to aid tourist in iPhone scam

Thousands raised to aid tourist in iPhone scam
UNYIELDING: Mr Chew, owner of Mobile Air at Sim Lim Square, refused to refund the full $950 paid by Mr Pham, returning only $400.

SINGAPORE - More than US$4,000 (S$5,001) has been raised to buy a new Apple iPhone 6 for a Vietnamese tourist who was scammed by Sim Lim Square store Mobile Air recently.

Amounts ranging from US$1 to US$100 have been pledged by about 200 people for the online project started on crowdfunding site Indiegogo yesterday.

He is not the only victim. A 19-year-old international student also told The Straits Times that she lost $551 to another shop, Mobile 22, in a similar way. At least two people have offered to help the student financially.

The Vietnamese tourist, Pham Van Thoai, 28, had gone down to Sim Lim Square on Monday to buy his girlfriend an iPhone 6. But the trip turned into a nasty standoff, with the factory worker in tears.

Mr Pham had agreed to pay $950 for the phone at Mobile Air, an electronics shop that has been blacklisted by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for its questionable sales tactics, when the sales assistant asked him for an additional $1,500 for warranty expenses.

The Vietnamese man was told by the sales assistant that if he failed to pay the additional amount, he would not only lose the $950 but also the new phone.

Mr Pham, who earns about $200 a month as a factory worker in his home country, panicked and broke down in tears.

He knelt down, pleading with Jover Chew, the owner of Mobile Air, to return his money. The police and Case had to intervene as well.

But Mr Chew refused to budge. Case managed to secure a refund of $400 for Mr Pham, but he was still short of $550.

"I'm only a factory worker, earning about $200 a month, $950 is a few months' pay. It's a large sum for me, I'm really very sad," he told Lianhe Zaobao on Monday.

The incident has since gone public, with netizens both supporting Mr Pham and deriding Mr Chew's actions.

Case said Mobile Air had 25 consumer complaints lodged against it from August to last month, the highest number against a Sim Lim Square retailer for that period.

It made headlines last week for paying back $1,010 in coins to a woman who had won a claim against it in the Small Claims Tribunal.

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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