Real Incident Of "How I Got Scammed!"
More than 900 e-commerce scams happened in Singapore in 2017 – according to a Straits Times article, more than 800 scams occured on the online marketplace, Carousell. Undeniably, the rise of online scams is a serious issue we need to guard against.
At Global Watch Service Centre, we have seen several customers who come in happily to service their new purchase from online marketplaces, but end up discovering that their newly-bought watch is a fake.
Never is it a good thing to be scammed of your hard-earned money. That’s why we decide to share some stories we learn from our customers, so that those in our Facebook community and friends can learn from others on this matter to know what red flags to look out for.
Most of us know of Carousell and probably even used the platform once or twice before to buy, sell or trade.
One of our customers saw a pre-owned Rolex Submariner for sale on Carousell for just S$7,500 – what a steal! He did a quick check on the seller and saw that he appeared rather trustworthy, with some good reviews. Eventually he dealt with the seller and arranged a meetup to buy the watch.
The meetup took place at a HDB void deck in Yishun, in late evening around 6pm to 7pm. In hindsight, this timing was actually a red flag. Most watch authentication shops and services are already closed for the day, so the customer had no way to authenticate his purchase.
Anyway, the seller shared some sob stories about how his mother was ill, and he needed money, thus resorting to selling his watch. Shortly after, the seller was joined by a lady and a kid at the void deck, which portrayed him as a family man and a filial son.
Fast forward, both the seller and buyer went to a renowned chain pawn shop nearby to see how much the watch can fetch if pawned. The verbal quotation from the pawn shop was around S$7,300 (after a visual examination and checking against some catalogue, but without checking the movement), which sounded reasonable to the customer. The customer decided to pay for the watch and the transaction was done.
The following day, this customer came to our service centre with the intention of servicing his newly-bought watch. Frankly speaking, the exterior of the watch matched was a very close match to a geninue Submariner (except for the weight which we had some suspicions), and there was little reason to doubt its authenticity, from the buyer's view. It was only after opening up the watch and seeing the movement that he realised the watch was in fact a counterfeit.
The customer frantically tried calling the seller, but it was to no avail – which scammer would respond after a successful scam? We eventually advised our customer to lodge a police report.
Another of our customer had a similar experience on eBay. He purchase a Rolex Datejust online at a fairly good price, which he did not wish to disclose to us. He found out that he had received a fake only when he came in for an authentication. Lucky for him, he informed eBay immediately and was asked by eBay to produce a report from an watch authority to confirm the matter.
Our customer asked for our assistance and eventually we issued a watch authentication report for him to make a successful full refund.
Not everyone is lucky enough to get their money back like this customer in the second story.
Here are a few takeaways that we think are important for you to guard against potential scams in your next online purchase:
1. A deal too good to be true
Let’s be honest, we all love good deals. And sometimes these deals do exist. But more often than not, they are baits …
To make sure that the deal isn’t too ridiculous, do check against the official retail price and even the prices listed by other retailers and buyers online. Do a comparison to see if the offered price is suspiciously low.
If you want to give the seller the benefit of doubt, bombard him/her with many questions (e.g. condition of the watch), ask for pictures, certification and request for it to be authenticated in your chosen service centre. An honest and sincere seller would be more than happy and confident to agree to your requests.
2. Putting up an act
This red flag is a little trickier to navigate, especially if you are an emotional and sympathetic person. For example, the customer in our first story fell prey to the seller’s story of having an ill mother. Sometimes scammers might use such tales to invoke pity in their potential buyers. Potential buyers will then be more inclined to make a faster purchase since the seller seems to be in urgent need of help.
Sometimes sellers might also claim that the watch is in high demand by many other people. This makes you want to buy the watch immediately in case someone else steals the deal. You will have to judge if you think the seller is telling the truth, but as a rule of thumb, be cautionary against such sweeping statements.
3. Odd hours for transaction
For watch transactions, it is advisable to deal at a timing when you are able to bring the watch for an authentication. Best is if the seller goes along with you for the authentication. Go to a trusted third-party and get the confirmation on the spot before your purchase.
4. Check the movement
The movement of a watch is the ultimate indicator of whether it is authentic or a fake. Of course, you should check if the exterior of the crystal, crown, etc. are original or have been replaced. Sometimes the exterior modification can be accepted by the buyer, if he is aware of the replacement.
Ironically, a couple of our customers get flustered when we say we will need to open the watch for an authentication. They feel that it is unnecessary as they want the watch intact and that we just need to tell from the exterior if it is genuine. Eventually, we decline such services as we do not want to be held responsible without a thorough check. But here’s a reiteration of the importance of doing so. The exterior of the watch or the weight might match an authentic one closely, but it is what's on the inside that really counts.
5. Be observant and discerning
In general, being observant and discerning can help you tell when someone is behaving suspiciously or likely to be lying. Look out for fidgety body movements, shifty eyes, unnatural pauses which are typical signs of untruthfulness. Well, sometimes people can be natural liars and it can be hard to discern – but don’t let your guard down!
Another tip we have is to not pay any deposit but pay the full amount upon the real-life transaction. Don't put your money at risk before receiving the item.
Even though it is hard to admit it, when we buy things, we are often led by our heart and not our head. Because of this, scammers often play on people’s emotions.
Be it the fear (of missing out of a good deal), sympathy (from listening to a sob story and having a desire to help someone out) or even greed, we are vulnerable to these emotions. Always remember to be in control of your emotions and don’t forgo logic and rationality when making any purchase.
But if you really get scammed, do stay calm and not act rashly e.g. by selling the replica off to others just so you can recover your money quickly. Otherwise you will be no different from the scammer. The best thing to do is to make a police report.
Please feel free to share any tips you have with our community for learning purposes so that we can all sharpen our skills when it comes to online purchases!