SINGAPORE: Victims of a private hire car promotional package scam lost at least S$7,700, according to the police on Wednesday (Feb 22).
In a Facebook post, police said they have received at least nine reports regarding the "Grab/Uber promotional packages" scam since last week.
The victims were introduced to the Grab or Uber promotional packages through friends, who had come across the advertisements by word of mouth. The victims were then asked to contact the seller via WhatsApp and instructed to transfer money to bank accounts to purchase the said packages.
However, after making payment, the victims were not able to redeem the rides, and the seller became uncontactable.
Channel NewsAsia understands that those who purchased the packages were promised discounted pre-paid rides, and were told to book rides via WhatsApp instead of the official apps.
Screenshot of a message sent to victims of the scam.
One of those scammed is university student Kerin Chia. She bought a package in January, sharing a deal for 128 rides for S$888 with her sister and a cousin.
“I got to know the whole package deal from my sister which she was introduced to by one of her friends," she told Channel NewsAsia. "The package was very attractive and initially I was thinking: 'How can it be so good?' But apparently her friend has been using it for a few months already and everything has been going well. So I thought it should be trustworthy."
Ms Chia said whenever she wanted to book a ride, she would message the person via WhatsApp. A response would come "within a minute" stating "Ride confirmed" she said, along with details of taxi model, the contact number of the driver and the estimated time of arrival.
She discovered it was a scam when the operator stopped responding. "Previously the operator of this taxi scam was always doing 'maintenance', so they went offline for maybe a few days, but after they came back, they would apologise and tell us we would be entitled to one free ride or something," she said, adding that this occurred three to four times from the time she bought the package.
"But the latest one was 'maintenance' from Feb 12 to Feb 14, then they came back (online) for a few hours then afterwards went totally missing."
She was only able to redeem 16 of the 128 rides promised. Ms Chia said she was upset as it was a significant amount, especially for a student.
ONLY PURCHASE RIDES FROM OFFICIAL SOURCES: POLICE
Police advised members of the public to only purchase rides from official sources, and to always exercise caution when purchasing items at prices that sound too good to be true.
"When in doubt, please call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722 6688 or visit www.scamalert.sg," police said.
They also urged those with information about the crime to call the police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit information online.
GRAB, UBERWILL ASSIST AUTHORITIES WITH INVESTIGATIONS
In response to media queries, Grab said it would assist authorities in their investigations. It also advised all passengers to refer to official Grab sources for promotional information, such as the Grab Singapore Facebook page, in-app notifications and emails sent from a Grab domain.
"When in doubt, passengers can contact our Grab Customer Support Centre at (65) 6570 3925 or email@example.com," Grab said.
Uber too, said it would assist authorities with investigations, and advised users to refer to the official Uber newsroom blog, social media profiles and marketing e-mails for updates on promotions.
"Uber promotions are typically conducted within the app, for example by inputting promo codes," said a spokesperson from Uber. "We always encourage users to engage any Uber products or services through the app, as it provides the best safety and security experience."
"Uber stands ready to assist the authorities in their investigations and also reserves the right to pursue legal recourse against those who misuse our trademarks."