Be Safe: E-Commerce Scams

11 May 2020

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What are e-commerce scams? 

E-commerce scams refer to fraud that occurs on an online purchasing platform. Often, scammers trick victims into making payment for online purchases that do not get delivered to them. Scammers may tempt online buyers with seemingly good deals for the latest gadgets, limited edition merchandise, or concert tickets. These “sellers” often ask buyers to pay up front.

In some cases, they may even ask for additional charges after buyers have paid up (e.g. extra fees to secure the deal or hidden delivery costs). Unfortunately, the buyers will never receive the promised items.

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According to The Straits Times, the number of e-commerce scams in Singapore rose from 1,013 to 1,435 between 2018 to 2019. This was the highest number reported among all types of scams. Many of these scams occurred on popular online shopping platforms like Carousell, Shopee and Lazada, and involved the sale of electronic products and tickets to events and attractions, such as tickets for concerts and Universal Studios Singapore.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some sellers also prey on their victim’s panic, by selling face masks and other related items such as hand sanitisers at ‘special’ prices or quantities and then failing to deliver them. They may also peddle game consoles and other home entertainment products or laptops and tablets for home-based-learning.

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How can I guard against e-commerce scams?

  • Be wary of sellers that list their items at too-good-to-be true prices, or offer lots of freebies.
  • Before making the purchase, find out how the site or e-commerce platform safeguards your interests or can help you solve disputes.
  • Ensure that the vendor utilises an accredited online payment platform such as PayNow, PayPal, Mastercard or VISA, among others.
  • Transact on reliable platforms such as those that release payment to the seller only upon the buyer’s receipt of the item.
  • Buy from familiar or reputable online vendors, especially for high-value items.
  • Avoid purchasing high-value items if it’s your first time purchasing from the vendor.

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  • Opt for payment upon delivery where possible. This is especially important if you’re making transactions through online classifieds or e-marketplace ads. If meet-ups are not possible,  you should consider carefully, especially for high-value items.
  • Read independent reviews of the online vendor as well as comments from past customers regarding the authenticity, quality and delivery of the product and aftersales service. However, do note that reviews can also be faked. Scammers can buy over accounts of sellers with good ratings to help them carry out their scams.
  • Check if the seller is on the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE)’s Company Alert List – Avoid the seller if it is on the list.
  • Scammers may also provide local bank accounts or images of a stolen NRIC to increase their credibility.
  • And most importantly, do not give more information than necessary. In most cases, sellers would only require your contact details and delivery address.

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