Swindlers, scam artists, and loan sharks (Ah Longs) are still very much alive and kicking in Singapore. Although the authorities are taking extraordinary protective measures, some still manage to get their piece of the pie.

Worst of all, anyone can fall prey to these crooks – regardless of your education level, age, or profession. It’s critical to learn swindlers’ most frequent techniques, or otherwise, you could become like one of the almost 20,000 cases of scams reported in the first half of 2021.

This number has increased significantly especially with COVID-19.

Keep reading below as we break down 5 of the most common scam categories:

Shopping Scams / E-commerce Scams 

Many people have been through a shopping scam or two. Swindlers usually succeed here because they have a large pool of potential victims who typically don’t report the petty cases.

We’ll tell you how to avoid getting into a shopping scam below:

1. Fake Products

Many e-commerce websites feature authentic-looking forgeries. Photo editing tools have made it that easy for scam artists to produce fake pictures.

So, how can you avoid being duped?s

One way is to check other customers’ reviews. Although some scam artists can buy fake reviews, you’ll notice:

– These comments sound phony, and they’re usually written in poor English.

– You can’t find any legit info on the reviewers.

– If you Google the company, you can’t find essential information, like its address or CEOs.

– Read their Google reviews or customer reviews. These are a great representation of how good and authentic a company is.

2. The Customer Service Representative Scam

You can be sucked into this scam on different e-commerce platforms, but most usually, if you’ve bought something on Taobao. In this case, a customer service agent can call you with a story, such as not sending you the product and getting a refund.

Here comes the red flag:

This swindler will want to know your bank account number, but also personal details like your PIN.

Warning: Don’t ever disclose this sort of personal info. If a company can’t send you the product, you’ll receive the refund without any other call from the third-party platform.

3. Fake Cosmetics

Some online shops retail fake skincare products that can be toxic. It’s easy to make these counterfeit cosmetics and lotions with just a few dollars, then retail them for hundreds.

All swindlers have to do is use actual containers and fill them with dangerous, cheap substances.

Here’s how to avoid that:

– Purchase skincare only from trustworthy brands’ official websites.

– Double-check platforms you’ve never heard of before – look at their websites, CEOs, and customer reviews.

– Don’t trust huge discounts from unknown websites.

– Look for product stickers that represent their authenticity.


Dining Scams

Here’s what dining scams to avoid:

1. By Weight Scam

The trick with these scams is writing the “by weight” price in the menu. This price is lower than the cost for full portion size. For instance, 50 grams of expensive caviar cost around $400 in Singapore, so don’t be tricked if you see them for $10.

That’s probably just the price per bean.

Here’s the solution:

Double-check with the waiter each time you think something’s too good to be true.

2. The Slow Buffet Scam

If you’ve paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet with a time limit, beware:

The waiters will bring your food super slowly to drag time. That way, you’ll get less food than you expected.

The solution is to:

– Read customer reviews

– Work with a trustworthy agency

3. The Small Appetiser Scam

Do you know those small appetisers you get before meals at some restaurants? For example, you can receive glasses of water, crackers or cheese.

Don’t just assume these are complimentary.

Instead, ask the waiters if they’re free and refuse anything that you’re not comfortable paying.


Travelling Scams

Most common travelling scams include:

1. The Zero Commission Scam

If you’re travelling to Eastern Europe, beware of the zero-commission rate when you change money. Many of these places charge 30-40% extra compared to other similar shops. When you try to get your money back, the agent will threaten or intimidate you.

There’s even worse:

In some countries, the police will help the swindlers too.


– Make sure you change money at professional and legit offices, such as a bank.

– Don’t be fooled by 0% rates.

– Ask in advance what fees you can expect.

2. The Fragile Souvenirs Scam

Beware of souvenir shops that look very hectic. You can break something cheap, and the owner can pretend it was actually expensive and fragile.

The swindler can threaten they’ll call the police. They’ll also try to intimidate you with their accomplices, who act like supposedly innocent bystanders.

3. The Street Auction Scam

This scam is common in posh European cities, like Paris, Rome, or London. Here’s how it happens:

People gather to bid for various products, such as electronics or art. But some bidders are actually accomplices who only participate to get you to bid more.

And that’s how you end with a fake.

Here’s the solution:

If you’re not trained to identify these fakes, stick to professional shops.


Saving & Investing Scams

While this is one of the most common scams, saving and investing scams are the easiest to recognise if you’re paying attention.

If something is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.

However, if you’re not thinking logically, scam artists can quickly get to you with:

– Outlandish claims

– Risky investments

– Incredibly high wins

These swindlers will use:

– Fear of missing out (FOMO)

– Your need for a sizeable short-term win

– Fake claims with no proof, such as a tip from a high-placed source or unofficial support from a renowned person/ company

Here’s how to avoid these scams:

– Don’t trust your emotions.

– Research every investment/ savings opportunity you get. For example, look at the Investor alert List and make sure if the agency is MAS-approved.

– Avoid everything that seems too good to be true. For instance, remember that the average returns over the last 50 years registered in the S&P 500 were around 6.8%/ year.

– Don’t trust sources that don’t give you all the details.

– Don’t trust very cheap algorithm-trading platforms that you haven’t heard of before. Do your research first to check customer reviews, hidden fees, and the app’s success rate.


Everyday Scams

How To Avoid Loan Scams In Singapore

Typical scams include:

1. Social Media Impersonation Scams

In this case, a swindler can hijack one of your friend’s social media profiles. Next, they’ll pretend to be your friend as they ask for a seemingly innocent favour.

Here’s the problem:

This favour usually involves sending them a password or OTP.

The solution is simple:

– Don’t send anyone any passwords, even if you know them.

– Double-check with your friend by calling them or paying them a face-to-face visit.

2. MLM Scams

Some free groups or clubs advertise themselves as a real help for Singaporeans. So, if you need the kind of support they offer, you’ll be tempted to join that club.

This readiness to help others for free hides darker intentions:

For instance, a free fitness club can recruit you to sell supplements. But if you’re not comfortable doing this, simply walk away.

3. Loan Sharks

Loan sharks will offer you lots of money, supposedly at negligible interest rates. They’ll hook you with direct messages and will meet you at any hour, day or night.

However, they will soon change their behaviours once you borrow from them, using threats and harassment.

Here’s what to do:

– Double-check any loan agency on MinLaw’s list of licensed moneylenders.

– Report any suspicious activity to the police.

– Research licensed moneylenders to choose a reliable agency.


Guide To Avoid Scams Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of swindlers out there who set traps galore. The best advice is to steer clear from opportunities that are too good to be true and do your research before buying or working with anyone.

But here’s the thing:

Most of these scams happen to people trying to save – or win – some cash. If you’re in a situation where money is a problem, click below to find out which financial institutions can help you within hours!

You can also use this government app to find out the latest scams in Singapore.

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