An unemployed single mum with two children thought she’d found the perfect money-making opportunity.
The ‘job’ however, ended up costing her more than $15,000 — equivalent to her entire life savings.
The 36-year-old woman, identified solely by her surname Zhang, told Shin Min Daily News about how she was taken in by scammers who had first contacted her via text message a week ago regarding a “part-time job”.
The message, which came from a Malaysian number, promised returns of between “$50 to $500 daily” for the work. A photo attached to the message was emblazoned with the Shopee logo, and the person introduced herself as a recruiter from the e-commerce site, said Zhang.
The text message which Zhang received. PHOTO: Screengrab from Shin Min Daily News.
Zhang replied that she was interested and on Saturday (Sept 10), she was connected to another recruiter to “start work”.
She first followed the instructions that were given, where she had to ‘like’ certain items on the platform. And each time, she was rewarded with $2 or $3.
“After a while, the person said I’ve passed the ‘trial’ and could proceed to the next stage to be a ‘buyer on Amazon’,” said Zhang.
This entailed purchasing items from the e-commerce platform, whereupon she’d be refunded in full and also earn a 20 per cent commission on the purchase price.
However, Zhang was first asked to transfer the price of the product to a designated bank account before a website link was generated and sent to her.
Using the link, Zhang would see that the amount she’d transferred was “credited” to her Amazon account and she could proceed to place the order.
According to Shin Min Daily News, however, they noticed that the URL of the link was different from Amazon’s official domain.
Zhang was bolstered by a false sense of security as the first few transactions went well and she was paid commission on “several hundred dollars” worth of products.
But it wasn’t long before things started to go awry.
Zhang was soon told that there was a problem with one of her orders and was asked to purchase a more expensive item as a “rescue measure”, in order to recoup on her initial investment.
This continued for several rounds, each time with the promise from the other party that it’ll be “the last” purchase.
Within a span of just 12 hours, Zhang had transferred a total of $15,610 until she eventually ran out of funds.
Suspecting that she had been scammed, Zhang made a police report. According to Shin Min, the police confirmed that investigations are ongoing for this case.
Zhang told Shin Min Daily News that as part of the ruse, she was placed in a chat group with 69 other members where they would share information about “their earnings”, giving others the impression that it was a legitimate avenue to make money, said Zhang.
After things went south, Zhang contacted the recruiter and pleaded for the return of her money, sharing her dire financial situation.
But they only suggested that she borrow money from others to continue with the purchases, and that “unless I continue to buy the products, I’m unable to get back the money that I’d paid”.
With her savings depleted, Zhang, whose two kids are in secondary school, admitted that she faced difficulty even putting three meals on the table for her family.
She shared that has had to turn to her younger sister for financial aid as her bank account is left with just $17, reported the Chinese evening daily.
Zhang revealed that she had been working at an interior design company before being asked to leave during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Forced to stay at home when her kids fell sick, she has yet to find permanent employment despite searching for alternative sources of income online.
Breaking down in tears during the interview with Shin Min Daily News, Zhang said she hopes her story can serve as a warning to others.
According to the Scam Alert website, such job scams usually begin with an unsolicited ‘job offer’ made through messaging apps or social media with promises of high returns.
Some of these ‘affiliate marketing’ jobs would require participants to pay for products in advance in return for a commission, while ‘agent’ jobs require them to process funds through their personal bank account.
In May, Shopee sent out an advisory to users indicating that it would “never ask for payment in exchange for a job, and never outside of the Shopee platform”.
Just last week, it was reported that a 24-year-old Chinese national in Singapore was conned of $70,000 — a majority of his parents’ life savings — by scammers posing as officers from the Ministry of Health.
This article was first published on AsiaOne and republished on theAsianparent with permission.