SINGAPORE: A 31-year-old single mother of two in Singapore, who aspired to achieve financial independence, fell victim to a scam through a seemingly legitimate marketing job advertised on Facebook.
This unfortunate incident resulted in the loss of approximately S$89,000, which represented nearly ten years’ worth of her hard-earned savings, all within the span of a week.
The woman, identified as Ms Lee (a pseudonym) recounted her story to The Sunday Times.
She had been a stay-at-home mom since her first daughter’s birth, now aged five, and her second daughter, just four months old.
Following her divorce three years ago, she had been dependent on support from her parents and maintenance payments from her former husband.
Tricked by a seemingly genuine online presence of the company
In July 2023, Ms. Lee began her job search and came across a Facebook ad posted by a company claiming to be “Singsale,” offering a marketing position.
Encouraged by the seemingly genuine online presence of the company, she responded to the advertisement via WhatsApp and communicated with a person named “Ivy.”
Ivy explained that the job involved placing online orders for various products, such as clothing and household items, to boost sales.
She was promised a full refund of her investment after completing 60 orders, along with a 20 percent commission.
Woman scammed despite “Singsale’s” legitimacy
Although “Singsale” is a legitimate e-commerce website owned by MySale Group, a subsidiary of the British retail giant Frasers Group, the transactions Ms Lee conducted were on a different platform.
She began using her own account for the orders after initially using Ivy’s account, and she received payouts promptly.
Encouraged by her initial success, she continued with more orders.
However, the situation took a devastating turn when she was asked to transfer payments to specific bank accounts provided by an individual claiming to be a staff member.
The order amounts ranged from approximately S$200 to S$5,000, and after 40 orders, Ms. Lee had invested S$89,796 and was nearly out of funds.
Anticipating a return of approximately S$107,700 – a profit of nearly S$18,000 within a week – she decided to withdraw her money and commission, only to be told that she had to pay a fee of approximately S$6,000 for the withdrawal.
Desperate and struggling to feed her two children, she explained her predicament to the staff member, but they insisted on this ‘authentication fee’ due to the large withdrawal.
Suspicions mount as Ivy’s role is questioned
Ms. Lee confided in Ivy, who claimed to be a fellow victim and said her husband had already filed a police report.
“The staff member said their bank accounts were frozen as someone had made a police report, and asked for S$8,000 to ‘unfreeze’ the accounts before I could get my money,” she recounted.
“I realised Ivy may have been from the same syndicate.”
Faced with a dire financial situation, Ms Lee sought assistance from debt collector Fast Debt Recovery in an attempt to recover her funds.
The debt collector, Lyn Ling, revealed that their investigation indicated that the bank accounts Ms Lee had transferred money to were associated with various individuals and linked to inactive phone numbers – clear indicators of a scam.
Regrettably, the chances of recovering the funds appeared slim, and Ms. Lee was encouraged to file a police report.
The Straits Times reported that authorities have confirmed investigations into this case are ongoing, underscoring the need for continued vigilance against online scams, especially for those seeking financial stability and independence.
Authorities issue warning on job scam targeting unsuspecting victims
In September, law enforcement issued a caution about a job scam involving scammers luring victims with commissions in exchange for completing basic surveys, subsequently presenting these victims with fraudulent employment prospects.
Potential victims, much like Ms Lee, are typically lured through unsolicited messages on WhatsApp or Telegram, promising nominal commissions for participating in surveys or promoting social media content.
Once convinced of the initial offer’s legitimacy, scammers guide them to another messaging group, where they are assigned tasks, often disguised as actions to “enhance” cryptocurrency values or “evaluate” online sellers.
Soon, victims will be told to transfer funds to bank accounts provided by the scammers, like what Ms Lee did.
In some cases, victims are coerced into investing significant personal funds for various reasons.
The scam’s true nature becomes apparent when victims are unable to claim their promised commissions or lose contact with the perpetrators.
Ms Lee expressed her embarrassment and revealed that she had not confided in friends or family regarding her traumatic experience.
“I don’t want to tell my parents, as this is a result of my personal doing. I don’t want them to get worried,” she said, adding that her father provides her with around S$300 a month.
“When I find a job, I won’t find it through online methods or Facebook again.”
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