Fakebook? Meta blamed as online shopping fraud doubles in Singapore

Online shopping scams are on the rise in Singapore, with the government saying more than half are taking place on Facebook Marketplace. — dpa

SINGAPORE: Online shopping scams are surging in Singapore, with Facebook the venue for more than half of them, the city-state's government has said.

The number of such shady deals doubled in 2023 to almost 10,000, after around 4,700 were reported the year before, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The MHA gave Facebook Marketplace the lowest anti-fraud score out of the six main ecommerce platforms in use in the country, after the number of con jobs carried out on the Meta-owned platform climbed from 1,138 in 2022 to over 4,500 last year.

The ministry gave a 4-tick rating to four providers – Amazon, Lazada, Qoo1 and Shopee – with Carousell awarded two ticks, one more than Facebook.

The ministry said the scams “generally involve the sale of goods and services online, which are not delivered after payment has been made”.

The most important consumer safeguard, the MHA believes, is “seller accounts that have their identities verified against Government-issued documentation by the platforms”.

“Scammers are more likely to use unverified accounts to list their products and services,” the MHA said.

Sun Xueling, the minister of state for home affairs, told Singapore's parliament earlier this year that Meta has “consistently pushed back” against government recommendations that accounts be verified using government-issued IDs. Meta said at the time that it was "dismayed" by the minister's comments.

The problem is not unique to Singapore: Research published in January by TSB, a UK bank, found that around one in three ads on Facebook Marketplace could be scams.

Public health officials in California last week warned people not to buy a haemorrhoid cream made in Vietnam, which has been linked to the death of a woman after she purchased the product on Facebook and had it shipped to the US. – dpa

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