There are so many scams happening left, right, and center. More than $201 million has been lost to scams!
All of us hear stories of how someone we know or someone on the internet was ripped off of their hard-earned money. A few scams are particularly rampant all over Singapore. Let’s learn about these top scams so you can better protect yourself and safeguard your monesy.
The internet’s increased penetration has paved the way for making scams extremely easy to perpetuate. Our personal information is freely sold online. Couple that with the number of insecure sources and the ground that hackers and malicious software are gaining year on year, it’s high time to spend some hours reviewing the most popular scams every once in a while.
As it is said, prevention is better than cure. Cure or recovery might not even be an option for you when money is involved. Protection from online scams is a multi-faceted task. Steps you take to protect yourself from online scams also improve your online privacy.
Lately, Singapore has also seen a large increase in online transactions. This has helped form a sort of breeding ground for scammers.
1. Love scams
They say that love is blind.
Vigilance is highly warranted when dating online. Love scams are rampant. People target unsuspecting users who are looking for love. They might start off slow, for example asking for a mobile recharge or to pay a small amount for a repair. However, it steadily increases as time goes by until the time comes when you are in their clutches.
At that point, these scammers (or “lovers”) can ask you for a significant sum of money and will promise to repay it. They’ll make up some excuse that his or her family is sick or that they need urgent medical treatment.
Victims will agree because they don’t want to lose companionship you hesitantly agree. The moment you do that the scammer vanishes into thin air and never contacts you again.
These scammers might also provide incentives in some cases such as small financial help to make the “relationship” seem both-sided. That’s purely a sham.
Meeting in public and with some backup is very important. Vigilance is extremely important in the age of online dating and fast dating. These scammers will have some prewritten scripts or introductions. If you spot obvious similarities between multiple introductions on online dating platforms then take it as a red flag and steer clear of those profiles.
2. Loan scams
You get contacted for a loan. The person claims to be a licensed moneylender. Naturally, you check their business credentials and website. Everything looks spotless. However, know that it’s pretty easy to fabricate an identity and even easier to create a legitimate-looking website.
Loan scams are rampant all over the world and Singapore is the hotspot of such activity because people looking for quick cash are plenty.
They might ask for bank account details and use private information to harass you. In many cases, they might charge you for an upfront fee first. Once you pay up, they will block all contact and sever the communications between you.
Here’s how to tell if they are a licensed moneylender or not.
3. Social media identity theft
Identities are so easy to steal. We put everything from how our home looks to our purchase history, pictures of our pets, what we like, and even which organizations we support out there – freely and openly. If someone wants to, they can replicate anyone’s identity to the very minute detail.
This spoofed information is then used to create accounts on social media platforms. Fraudsters can also contact you masquerading as your friends, family, or acquaintances. They might ask for your personal information using any excuse such as organizing a reunion or to sign you up for a contest in your field.
They can then use your personal information to make transactions in your name.
Never share financial information with others online. If you must, always ensure that you have double-checked the profile. It’s always a good idea to rely on a more conventional communication channel such as a phone call or meeting face to face to confirm things before you release your information to an online chat.
4. Fake job scams
Times are really tough with COVID-19.
A large section of the Singaporean population is currently unemployed. Many have also lost their jobs recently due to the raging pandemic. Consequently, it has become a pastime for scammers to nab gullible and easily trusting people with job offers.
Any job offer that entails you first paying a sum is likely a scam. No legitimate job portal ever asks for your financial information as they don’t pay you – your employers do. Job seekers are sometimes presented with advertisements promising a meet or introduction with wealthy female clients.
Sometimes scam job postings also end up on legitimate job portals.
Keep in mind that if you have to pay a fee upfront before you even get the job or if you are asked for your financial information then it’s a scam. Sometimes, you could also be asked for your credit card details. Honestly, they should be the ones paying you, not the other way around.
Another red flag is companies promising high returns with minimal effort. They prey on greed. Though it’s theoretically possible to be presented with a niche job opportunity that does pay well with minimal effort – these cases are one in a thousand and the odds are generally against you.
That’s why you should always double-check the company information separately from the job posting. If the company website looks legit, check reviews for it. If even reviews exist, then it’s time to check the social media handles. Typically, two-bit scammers who do fake job postings don’t have the time, dedication, or resources to spend on fabricating trustworthy social media handles.
A trustworthy social media handle is easy to spot. It will have a decent following and good audience interaction. Reviews, if present, will also be positive.
5. E-commerce scams
E-commerce scams are another category of online scams that are circulating widely. First of all, if an offer is too good to be true and you are getting a high-quality item for relatively cheap, it’s most likely a scam.
Furthermore, e-commerce portals that don’t handle payments with trustworthy platforms and ask you to make payments directly to the seller’s bank account before you receive the product are also scams.
It’s extremely easy to incorporate any legit payment processor that’s regulated by governmental institutions on any website. Any legit e-commerce platform will only do business using such payment processors, regardless of the types of payment methods they accept.
That’s why it’s highly likely that anyone asking for peer-to-peer bank payment for goods or services, even before delivery, is orchestrating a scam.
Do not transfer money into a stranger’s account. Also, check for company registration information. If an e-commerce platform is offering great deals but has no registered office then that’s a red flag right there and you should tread cautiously.
On the other hand, some e-commerce platforms do use payment processors but not the ones which have some mechanism for recourse upon non-delivery of goods or services.
For example, PayPal makes it extremely easy for buyers to raise a dispute if goods were not received. The funds will be locked and following an investigation where you supply information such as what was promised, chat history, and transactional data, you will get your money back.
A scammer who is smart enough to not use peer-to-peer bank transfers will likely also avoid such payment systems that give buyers a lot of recourse power. There are many payment processors that don’t come with such stringent buyer protections and they might specifically pick those to incorporate on their platform.
Know the trustworthy payment processors apart from others. And never do any direct bank transfer before receiving what you purchased under any circumstances.
Ultimately, Murphy’s Law can be your guiding principle here. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
If something appears off about a person or an offer seems too good to be true then it most likely is a scam. There’s nothing called free or easy money in this world. Hoping for jump starts using apparently logical shortcuts can easily land you in a lot of financial trouble. It’s better to focus on hard work and protect your money from anything that looks suspicious.
It’s time to become a more vigilant internet user even if you have never been duped in the past. The methodologies of scammers are improving. Report them immediately should be suspect anything amiss!
Another integral part of staying safe online and avoiding “phishing” scams is to always double-check a website’s address. A website can be made to look like Amazon, but it can never have the www.amazon.sg domain. If you are visiting a trustworthy site and find something off about it, always check whether or not it’s the official website domain or address.
When dealing with websites you are not familiar with, also check the websites for an SSL certificate (indicated by the presence of a lock icon on most modern web browsers right on the left-hand side of the URL or web address). Do not store personal data or financial data on websites that are not secure (do not have SSL encryption).