The Police arrested a woman and three men on 20 February 2020, for suspected involvement in separate e-commerce scams involving the sale of face masks and other items. The scams exploited the use of e-commerce platforms and online channels such as Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Carousell, WhatsApp and Telegram.
Between 2 January and 19 February 2020, the Police received many reports from persons who said they had been cheated by online sellers after they paid for face masks. The sellers became uncontactable after payments were made via bank transfers.
Through investigations and working closely with banks and e-commerce platforms, Police officers established the identities of the four suspects and took the following actions:
a) A 24-year-old woman is suspected to be involved in about 40 cases of e-commerce scams amounting to more than $11,000. Her victims had responded to an advertisement on face masks on Facebook Marketplace where they were directed to communicate via WhatsApp to arrange payment in advance via bank transfers. She was charged in court on 21 February 2020 with Cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code, which is punishable with an imprisonment term that may extend to 10 years, and a fine.
b) A 22-year-old man is suspected to be involved in at least 10 cases of e-commerce scams amounting to more than $8,000. His victims were directed to pay via bank transfers for face masks and concert tickets that were advertised on a Telegram group chat namely, SG free MarketPlace and on Carousell. He was charged on 21 February 2020 with Cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
c) A 37-year-old man was arrested on 20 February 2020. He is believed to be involved in at least 200 cases of e-commerce scams amounting to more than $90,000. His victims had responded to advertisements on face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers on Carousell where they were directed to make payment in advance via bank transfers. He was charged in court on 21 February 2020 with Cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
d) A 15-year-old youth is believed to be involved in more than five cases of e-commerce scams, cheating his victims of more than $16,300. His victims had responded to advertisements on face masks, skin care products and hotel staycation packages on Gumtree and Carousell. They were also directed to make payment via bank transfers. He will be charged in court on 24 February 2020 with Cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code.
The Police would like to advise members of the public to be very careful when making online purchases, especially during this period:
a. Don't Panic - Be rational when considering purchases, and do not buy on impulse.
b. Don't Believe - Scammers may use a local bank account or provide a copy of an NRIC/driver's licence to show you that they are genuine sellers. Do not fall for this!
c. Don't Give - Avoid making payments or deposits in advance. Use shopping platforms/arrangements that release your payments to the seller only upon receipt of the item(s). Buy only from reputable websites/platforms.
For more information on scams, visit www.scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam hotline at 1800-722-6688. Anyone with information on such scams may call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000 or submit information online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. All information will be kept strictly confidential.
The Police take a serious view of those who take advantage of the current COVID-19 situation to perpetrate crimes. All offenders will be dealt with sternly in accordance with the law.
Source: Singapore Police Force