Police arrest four for e-commerce scams involving face masks

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SINGAPORE – Police arrested three men and a women on Thursday (20 February) for suspected involvement in e-commerce scams involving the sale of face masks that cheated victims of more than $125,000.

In a media statement released on Saturday, police said that since the start of the year, they have received many reports from the public saying that they had been cheated by online sellers who become uncontactable after they paid for face masks via bank transfers.

The scams used e-commerce platforms and online channels such as Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Carousell, WhatsApp and Telegram.

After investigations, police officers established the identities for the four suspects:

  • 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.

  • 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 “SG free MarketPlace” and on Carousell.

  • A 37-year-old man was arrested on Thursday for alleged involvement 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.

  • A 15-year-old male teenager is believed to be involved in more than five cases of ecommerce 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.

The first three were charged on Friday with cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code, while the teenager will be charged on Monday with the same crime, which is punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.

Police would like to advise members of the public to be careful when making online purchases, especially during this COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak period:

  • Don’t Panic: Be rational when considering purchases, and do not buy on impulse.

  • Don’t Believe: Scammers may even use a local bank account or provide a copy of an NRIC/driver’s licence to show you that they are genuine sellers.

  • Don’t Give: Avoid making payments or deposits in advance. Use shopping platforms or arrangements that release payments to the seller only upon receipt of the items. Buy only from reputable websites/platforms.

For more information on scams, visit www.scamalert.sg or call the anti-scam hotline at 1800-7226688. Anyone with information on such scams may call the police hotline at 1800-2550000 or submit information online.

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