SINGAPORE: A 51-year-old Singaporean woman, surnamed Li, is reeling from a devastating financial loss after falling victim to a scam involving a fraudulent mooncake advertisement on Facebook.

Mdm Li lost more than S$76,000 to scammers who lured her in with an offer of eight pieces of snow skin mao shan wang mooncakes for S$29.90. Among the lost funds was S$50,000 that Mdm Li had intended to use as a down payment for an HDB flat, with the remainder earmarked for renovation expenses.

The unfortunate saga began on Thursday (Sept 14) when Mdm Li stumbled upon an enticing mooncake advertisement on her Facebook feed. The advertisement promised a special deal, offering eight pieces of snow skin mao shan wang mooncakes for a seemingly unbeatable price of S$29.90, marked down from an original price of S$56.90.

Intrigued by the offer, Mdm Li clicked on the link attached to the advertisement, which redirected her to a conversation on the messaging platform WhatsApp. The scammer, impersonating a legitimate seller, initiated contact with Mdm Li and provided a link to download an app purportedly for confirming the delivery address.

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To seal the deal, the scammer requested a token payment of S$1 to confirm the order.

Aware of the prevalence of online scams, Mdm Li hesitated but ultimately relented, claiming she did not possess the PayNow payment app. In response, the scammer offered to make the payment on her behalf, a move that would later prove disastrous for Mdm Li.

After downloading the app as instructed, Mdm Li initially noticed no unusual activity on her phone. However, things took a turn for the worse when she realised that she could no longer access two of her banking apps. Fearing the worst, Li deleted the suspicious app from her phone.

However, the scammer was quick to react, contacting Mdm Li and informing her that her order could no longer be processed due to the app’s removal. Under pressure from the scammer, Mdm Li reluctantly reinstalled the app.

The true extent of the deception became apparent the following morning when Mdm Li attempted to access her bank account. She was met with an unsettling discovery: her S$76,538 in savings had vanished, with four separate unauthorised transactions siphoning off her hard-earned money.

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In a state of shock and despair, Mdm Li immediately visited a nearby Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to confirm her worst fears. The sight of her empty bank account left her in a state of emotional distress.

Mdm Li expressed her frustration with her bank, asserting that she had not received any email or text notifications regarding the abnormal transactions as she had requested. She argued that even if text messages could have been blocked or deleted by the scammer, the bank should have sent notifications via email to alert her to the suspicious activity.

In response to inquiries from Shin Min Daily News, the Singapore Police Force confirmed that a police report had been filed and investigations were underway. Authorities are working to trace the perpetrators behind this elaborate scam.

This unfortunate incident serves as a stark reminder of the ever-present threat of online scams and the importance of remaining vigilant while conducting online transactions. It underscores the need for both individuals and financial institutions to stay vigilant against cybercriminals and take appropriate security measures to protect personal and financial information.