Facebook Garage Sale Scam

Recently, I had a brush with an interesting scam on Facebook, specifically in the “Xbox Marketplace Singapore” group. A user going by “Ann Wong” posted a virtual garage sale, announcing her departure from Singapore after a decade. Her offer included a variety of items at steep discounts: an iPhone 14 Pro Max for S$550, a Thermomix at S$500, and a full set PS5 at S$350, among others. These prices were significantly lower than those on popular platforms like Carousell, and even included free delivery.

The old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, the authenticity of “Ann’s” writing style, reminiscent of an older Chinese expatriate in Singapore, gave the post a veneer of credibility.

Intrigued, I messaged her, expressing interest in the iPhone and a Samsung 55″ TV. She responded politely and when I suggested picking up the items, she provided a residential address in Jalan Sankam, a distant area for me. She was flexible with the timing, offering the next day at 2 pm or the same day at 8 pm, which seemed reasonable.

However, a red flag was raised when she suggested I pay in advance to reserve the items. This prompted me to scrutinize her Facebook profile. At first glance, it appeared legitimate, complete with personal details and photos. Yet, a closer look revealed inconsistencies: the women in the profile and cover photos, both uploaded just nine hours earlier, didn’t match.

Further, she provided a bank account for payment, supposedly belonging to her “hubby” James Goh – a different surname from Wong. Research revealed that the phone number associated with the account was inactive on platforms like Truecaller and Grab, and therefore likely linked to a money mule.

A deeper investigation showed that no family named Wong or Goh had resided at the Jalan Sankam address in the past decade. Moreover, a reverse image search of the listed items indicated they were lifted from various Carousell listings and other online sources, cleverly selected and staged to look like convincing personal belongings.

Continuing the conversation without revealing my suspicions, I declined the reservation offer, stating I’d prefer to buy whatever was available upon my arrival. I even provided a distant postal code for delivery, testing the scammer’s commitment to the free delivery promise. True to form, “Ann Wong” agreed, but silently wiped her account 10 minutes later… Only to reappear later under a new identity.

This experience was eye-opening, not fitting the typical scam mold. The scammer’s wide product range, non-pushy demeanor, and seemingly genuine interactions were all part of a well-crafted ruse.

I’ve since reported the account and the associated bank details, though it’s unclear if any victims were ensnared. It’s especially worrying that Facebook replied the report to say they found nothing suspicious with the account, despite the complete change in identity. This serves as a cautionary tale about the evolving nature of online scams. Always stay vigilant and skeptical, especially when deals seem too good to be true.