With surgical masks sold out at most pharmacies, some are turning to online marketplaces to get their fix. Unfortunately, scams hoping to cash in on the virus outbreak are spreading faster than the virus itself.
Two Carousell users took to Facebook on Feb 15 to warn others of a scammer who allegedly sold face masks under the guise of a medical supplies company, issued fake invoices and reneged on orders.
One Carousell user, identified only as Xie Yu, lost $750 to the seller. He told Lianhe Wanbao that he had come across a listing selling face masks for $25 a box on the online marketplace.
The seller, one justin.ch00ng, claimed that he had 30 boxes of masks in stock, Xie, 31, told the Chinese daily.
Wanting to stock up on masks for his company's employees and clients, he arranged for all 30 boxes to be delivered to his office in Rangoon at 6.30pm on Feb 15.
Xie had intended to pay in cash after receiving the goods, but ended up transferring $750 to the seller via PayNow after the seller insisted on receiving payment before making the delivery.
But the seller never turned up.
"We called and sent him messages. His Carousell account had also disappeared. It was like he disappeared off the face of the Earth," Xie said in Mandarin.
Besides making a police report, he also took to Facebook to offer a $3,000 reward to anyone who could track down the scammer.
"I don't want to see other people getting scammed. I also think it's very immoral to be scamming people in a time like this, so I hope to find him and stop him," he explained.
Since Xie made the post, at least nine people have reached out to him saying that they were victims of the same scam.
While the alleged scammer used different Carousell accounts and mobile phone numbers to contact his victims, they were all told to make payment to the same PayNow account, he claimed.
Another Facebook user, Esmonde Teo, shared in a post that he had nearly fallen prey to the same seller.
The seller had even sent Teo an invoice bearing the logo of Pharmex Healthcare, the retail division of Yeap Medical Supplies.
Fortunately for Teo, the seller called off the deal after he insisted on paying cash on delivery.
Yeap Medical Supplies took to Facebook on Feb 16 to clarify that they had nothing to do with the Carousell listing.
The company only sells its medical supplies through its retail outlets in Yishun, Kembangan and Our Tampines Hub as well as its official online store, it said.
Yeap Medical Supplies added that it has made a police report and is currently gathering more information on the case.
In response to queries from AsiaOne, Tan Su Lin, Carousell's chief of staff and vice president of operations, said the company was aware of the recent reports on online fraud and have been working closely with the authorities to address this.
Carousell also encourages users to be extra vigilant when shopping on any e-commerce platforms as scammers can be opportunistic and take advantage of people's fear and panic during this period.
Users should also use Carousell Protection when making any form of transactions on Carousell, she added.
Carousell Protection, previously known as CarouPay in Singapore, is an escrow payment system which provides assurance to users by holding payment until a transaction is verified successful by both buyer and users.
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