Tips on how to protect yourself from scammers

Tips on how to protect yourself from scammers

SINGAPORE - The police said today that they have noted an increase in the number of 'Multiple Payment Online Purchase' scams reported.

According to a statement from the police, this scam involves scammers enticing victims with attractive online advertisements of handphones or tablets with low prices for a limited time.

Apart from the wide range of items on offer, the scammers also offer a refund policy in their advertisement.

They will then assure victims that the offers are genuine through various methods.

To prove their authenticity, they would provide a copy of their NRICs or passports and various local bank accounts for victims to transfer payments. They may also provide documentary proof in the form of shipping invoices, business letterheads and use legitimate-looking online websites.

They would then ask the victim to make payments via bank transfers or remittance.

When the victim does not receive the purchase despite making payment, the scammers would request for further payments as administrative fees for the following reasons:

1.Items were held or wrongly delivered to another country - additional payment is required to retrieve the items.

2. Items were seized at the Customs - additional payment is required for storage fees, and scammers would email the "seizure notices" to victims.

3. Items encountered courier/shipment problems- there was a mix-up with other items from a different order and delivery could not be cancelled (one-way delivery). Victims need to pay for the additional items or pay additional refundable guarantee fee to return the additional items.

4. Items included in the package to meet required minimum quantity-shipment cannot be made as the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) is not met and victims need to make more orders and additional payments.

In order to avoid being a victim yourself, adopt the following measures suggested by the police:

1. Do business with those you know and trust. Be sure you know who the company or person is and where they are physically located, even if a local number is used. Businesses operating in cyberspace may be located in another part of the world. Resolving problems with someone unfamiliar may be more complicated in cross-border transactions.

2. Understand the offer. Look carefully at the information about the goods and ask for more information when required. A legitimate business would gladly provide it. Ensure that you know what is being sold, the total price, the delivery date, the return, cancellation policy and the terms of any guarantee. Do not be lured by the discount to purchase the goods.

3. Never give your bank account numbers, credit card numbers and personal information to anyone you don't know or have not checked out. Do not provide information that is not necessary to make the purchase.

4. Check out the track record of the company/seller. Ask the company/seller for their list of clients/customers. Make enquiries with the clients/customers on the background and services provided by the company/seller. Be wary that fraud artists can appear and disappear especially in cyberspace, so the lack of a complaint record is no guarantee of legitimacy.

5. Do not easily trust the identities claimed by online sellers. They may not turn out to be the owners of those identities.

6. Do not help others you have met online to make funds transfers or assist in making remittances of unknown sources of money. By doing so, you may be aiding and abetting a criminal in receiving the proceeds from crime. Anyone who assists others to move the proceeds from crime may be liable for criminal offences whether or not there was monetary benefit and may be liable for the offence of Dishonestly Receiving Stolen Property under Section 411 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, which is punishable with imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine, or both.

If you have any information relating to the above crime, please do not hesitate to contact the Police at 1800 - 255 0000 or dial '999' for urgent Police assistance.

abrahamr@sph.com.sg

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