Social media impersonation scams on fake promos for Lazada and Shopee on the rise

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has received at least 1,000 reports of social media impersonation scams where victims were tricked into disclosing their credit card information and one-time password (OTP) in the first five months of 2020. This amounts to at least SG$2.2 million, according to a press release. SPF said that scammers would usually ask the victims for their personal details such as mobile number, internet banking account details, and OTP on the pretext of helping them to sign up for fake contests or promotions on Lazada or Shopee.

In the majority of these reported cases, scammers would often use compromised or spoofed social media accounts to impersonate as the victims’ friends or followers on Facebook or Instagram. Victims would later discover that unauthorised fraudulent transactions had been made from their bank accounts and mobile wallets without their consent. According to SPF, these fraudulent transactions often occurred on online platforms selling game credits that could be used on a variety of online games.

SPF has advised members of the public to be wary of unexpected requests or offers from social media contacts, especially those related to lucky draws or contests. Users should also verify whether the account is legitimate by checking with their family and friends offline. Most importantly, users should never give out personal or bank account details, and their OTP to anyone, including their family and friends.

In May 2020, SPF reported at least SG$41.3 million was lost to scammers in the first three months this year. Among the cases reported, eCommerce scams ranked first with 1,159 cases, which was 116.2% increase when compared to the same period in 2019. According to SPF, at least SG$1.3 million was cheated from January to March 2020, with the largest sum cheated in a single case being SG$175,000.

SPF reported then that 48.7% of the reported eCommerce scams were carried out through Carousell, while 17.9% were via Facebook and 15% via Shopee. Lazada and Alibaba were also used as transactional platforms for 6.6% and 1.4% of the reported scams respectively. 

Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer, Shopee, previously told Marketing that in efforts to combat scams, it sends out periodic push notifications to educate its users on how to identify and protect themselves from scams. To remind its consumers not to make transaction outside its app, warning pop-ups will appear in the in-app chat feature if and when Shopee detects a seller attempting to route buyers outside the app for transactions. 

Simiarly, Su Lin Tan, Carousell’s chief of staff and vice president of operations, said it posted safety tips on its platform to educate users on what to look out for and how they can transact safely on Carousell. The safety tips are further supported with a banner on its home screen, push notifications, prompts that appear in direct messages to users, internal ads on listings, in-app notifications, as well as its social media channels. 

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