COVID-19: A Compilation of Scams You Should be Aware Of

Published by on . Updated on 18 May 2020

Road Sign 464653 1920(Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge of scammers attempting to swindle money from unsuspecting folks. Not only is it unethical, but it is also uncalled for.

With that said, it is always important to stay vigilant and safeguard yourself against scammers.

These scammers are using the current COVID-19 situation to take advantage of people, and we hope you do not fall for them.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

1) E-commerce Scams (Nintendo Switch)

Yq C9 13042020(Photo Credit: Straits Times)

We’ve all heard of the popular online marketplace, Carousell. It gives users an opportunity to buy, trade and sell things with ease.

If you have the luxury of time during this Circuit Breaker period, you’d probably spend some of it gaming.

And when it comes to gaming, no console is more popular now than the Nintendo Switch, especially since Animal Crossing was released not too long ago.

This unprecedented rise in popularity among Singaporeans has brought about an increased demand for the console as a result.

The consequence? Scammers attempting to take advantage of this increased demand.

On Monday (13 April 2020), two men were arrested for a series of e-commerce scams on Carousell involving Nintendo Switch. These suspects may face up to 10 years in jail and a fine if found guilty.

Since social distancing measures are in place, Carousell meet-ups are impossible. Perhaps purchasing items from reputable online dealers is a better option.

2) Face Mask and Hand Sanitiser Scams

St 20200212 Vngood3 5444575(Photo Credit: Straits Times)

When it comes to face masks and hand sanitisers, best believe that Singaporeans will be highly intrigued. After all, these essential items were hoarded by Singaporeans during the start of the pandemic.

On 9 April 2020, a 24-year-old man was arrested for suspected involvement in a series of scams involving the sale face masks and hand sanitisers.

According to the Police, the seller “became uncontactable after deposits were paid via PayNow and Paylah”. Similarly, he faces up to 10 years’ jail and a possible fine.

Always make informed choices while purchasing items, even if they are essential items. Don’t be overly eager and let your emotions cloud your judgement.

3) Impersonation of Government Officials (Solidarity Payment)

Scam 1 2(Photo Credit: TODAY)

On 9 April 2020, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat announced a Solidarity Payment to help Singaporeans tide through COVID-19.

All Singaporean aged 21 and above will each receive a one-off payment of $600.

According to local authorities, they have the bank account details of 90% of recipients. However, the remaining 10% of adults have to provide details manually via a secure form by 23 April 2020.

The resulting consequence? People impersonating officials to solicit bank account details from unsuspecting members of the public

Do note that relevant agencies would never request for your bank account details via phone calls or emails. Additionally, authorized online transactions with Government agencies will usually require users to log in with a SingPass ID and password.

4) Impersonation of Local or Chinese Officials

Hqdefault(Photo Credit: CNA)

On Monday (13 April 2020), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) issued an advisory alerting the public that there have been cases of scammers impersonating Ministry of Health (MOH) staff. These scammers would make ridiculous claims about Chinese officials seizing COVID-19 contraband medicine registered under the victim's name.

Local authorities said that since March, there have been at least five similar reports, with victims losing a grand total of more than $110,000 in total.

In addition, scammers have also been impersonating courier companies, telecommunication services, as well as government officers.

SPF also reiterated the fact that authorities “will not ask them for their banking credentials or to transfer monies to bank accounts”, and that people who receive unsolicited calls from unknown parties should ignore the calls and the caller's instructions.

So before believing these ludicrous and somewhat amusing claims or stories, always make sure that you verify the identity of the caller. When in doubt, always seek the opinion of others!

5) Roadblocks to Catch People Flouting Safe Distancing Measures

Road Block Fake News(Photo Credit: Mothership)

On Monday (13 April 2020), SPF announced that safe distancing measures are not enforced at roadblocks.

This was in response to “messages circulating via text messaging service making false claims that members of the public had been stopped at police roadblocks and fined for not complying with the elevated safe distancing measures”.

SPF also ensured and reiterated the fact that no roadblocks have been conducted specifically to enforce the safe distancing measures, and that no passengers have been issued with fines at roadblock for non-compliance.

Authorities also mentioned that the purpose for roadblocks is to prevent driving offences such as drink-driving and to identify wanted personnel.

However, this is not an open invitation to flout the safe distancing measures! Play your part as a responsible citizen by staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary.

6) Temporary Relief Fund Scam

Temp Relief Fund Abuse Desmond Lee (Photo Credit: CNA)

On 26 March 2020, the Government introduced the Resilience Budget to provide support to Singaporeans in this time of crisis.

As part of this, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) brought about the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) and the COVID-19 Support Grant to support lower and middle income Singaporeans who are financially impacted.

Singaporeans would be eligible for a one-time cash assistance of $500 as part of the TRF, if they can provide documents proving that they have suffered at least a 30% drop in income or have lost their job, and must not be recipients of ComCare Assistance.

According to the Minister of Law and Home Affairs Mr K.Shanmugam, “the application process for the COVID-19 Temporary Relief Fund was made simple so that those who need the help can get it as quickly and effectively as possible.”

However, there have been cases of people taking advantage of the ease of application.

The authorities also mentioned that they were aware of social media advertisements purportedly selling forged payslips for the purpose of making fraudulent TRF claims.

Mr Shanmugam also mentioned that the authorities will “come down quite hard” on those who abuse the fund, in order to prevent others from doing the same.

Abuse of the TRF constitutes to a cheating offence, and can be prosecuted and face jail term for up to 10 years and a possible fine.

So before you think you can outsmart others, think again! Even if you did, it is nothing to be proud of.

Are there any other COVID-19 related scams that we missed out on? Do let us know in the comments below.

Remember to stay safe and stay at home!

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