I was in the middle of a group discussion for my university project when I received an unsolicited Telegram message from someone named Winnie. “Hello, I am Winnie, Do you willing to know more about boosting movie’s review!? And get extra 50 per review’s,Text me for more details.” I knew it was just another job scam message because of Winnie’s poor command of English and the fact that I was offered a job that I never applied for. However, I was very curious about how scammers operate. Confident that I would never fall for such a scam, I responded with a similarly-worded message. “I am will to know more!” That was the start of how I nearly got hooked into a scam.
Photo by Janna Aw (Screenshot)
Winnie claimed to be from a job recruiting agency in Singapore and asked for my particulars. Aiming to uncover how phishers operate, I fabricated a persona completely different from my real self. Winnie referred me to Liz, her client and my main point of contact. I questioned Liz about the company’s legitimacy, and she assured me that the company was real. She initially focused on getting me to register on a website to start reviewing movies but soon fostered an emotional connection by trying to befriend my false persona. Guilt and uncertainty arose as I wondered if I was the bad guy. My initial confidence started to waver.
However, Liz started getting impatient. Claiming that she could only send the registration link over after I had gone through a sign-up procedure with her, Liz started guilt-tripping me about my inaction. After I expressed my disinterest, Liz immediately deleted our chat history and blocked me, indicating that she was indeed a scammer. A scammer deleting or blocking their profile seemed to be a common tactic.
Had I been in a position where I desperately needed money, I might have fallen for the scam since Winnie and Liz constantly provided their credentials. Liz’s attempts to forge an emotional connection with my false persona (a tactic which many scammers use) and my lack of further research caused me to trust her more. All I did was a quick search to assess the companies’ existence, I had not been cautious enough.
In hindsight, one should never reply to such unsolicited messages as scammers usually fish for active numbers by messaging random combinations of numbers and outsource these numbers to other scammers. I noticed that I started receiving more unsolicited messages after responding to a scammer than before my experience with Winnie.
If you are uncertain if you are contacting a scammer, a quick search to find the information provided by the contact person is insufficient as scammers usually give the names of smaller companies and impersonate their employees to prove their legitimacy. Here are some ways to identify a scammer when receiving such unsolicited messages:
● Check the authenticity of the job offer with the company in question.
● Beyond finding the company’s existence, watch out for red flags such as a job recruiter messaging you regarding a job you never applied for.
● Conduct thorough research about the company and the person of contact.
● Look through scamalert.sg ‘s database to look for similar scam reports.
● Evaluate all the information gathered through your research; is this job opportunity real?
Ultimately, you should never share your personal information with strangers. While these job offers may look enticing, it is best to be cautious of something that sounds too good to be true! If I’ve learnt anything from my experience with Liz and Winnie, it is to never be complacent, conduct further research, and always take caution in protecting my personal information.
This article was written by Janna Aw.
Janna was a Programmes & Services (Outreach) intern with the S.U.R.E. team in 2022. She is a curious individual who is interested in communications and is concerned about the rising cases of scams in Singapore.
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