A 45-year-old man has been arrested for cheating after allegedly accepting payment for hotel reservations he subsequently failed to honor.
Several victims had come across the man’s alleged advertisement for hotel reservations on the Carousell e-commerce platform and started contacting him via WhatsApp. However, they did not receive the hotel reservations after making payment by bank transfer and PayNow.
Police said they received several reports in December from victims of the alleged scam. Through investigations, officers from the Woodlands Police Division have established the identity of the man who arrested him on Wednesday (December 15th).
“Preliminary inquiries have revealed that the man was allegedly involved in at least 29 similar cases with reported total losses amounting to $ 30,000,” police added.
The man will be charged on Friday with cheating, carrying a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.
Several of the man’s victims showed up at Stomp to share their experiences.
to crush J said he managed to get in touch with 29 other victims who had also fallen prey to the man’s hotel reservation scam.
The 30 parties, which are part of a WhatsApp group, had filed police reports from December 11 to 17.
Recounting her experience, Stomper J said, “My wife made a payment of $ 1,300 through PayNow on December 6th on my behalf for a night in an Ocean Suite on December 11th.
“The man became MIA on the morning of December 11. We tried bombarding his phone number with WhatsApp calls and messages, but to no avail.
“Not only did he cheat our money, but he also played with our mental and emotional feelings, as we had already told our loved ones about the trip and packed our children.
“This guy is extremely intriguing because he made us believe him by sending us great reviews from other customers and following up quickly after our payment.
“It turns out that he received these great reviews by tricking previous customers to make the payment and then refunding them the full amount. He told them he had Covid-19 and therefore was unable to fill reservations.
Fortunately, we were able to contact one of the users who had previously reviewed her and she was able to put us in touch with other victims.
“Together, we discovered that his ultimate plan was to cheat us all in one week and disappear on December 11.”
Here’s how much each of the 30 victims lost:
So how did the man manage to pull off his scam on so many victims?
A lot can be deduced from the way he interacts with his victims, as shown in the screenshots shared with Stomp.
Here are some of his subtle tactics:
1. Offer an offer that is too good to be missed
Here, the man is following most crooks’ modus operandi: to share what seems like a really good deal that should not be passed up.
In some cases, it offers to show its victims proof that other users are paying an even higher amount, making them think they are getting a really good deal.
Too good to be missed? Rather too good to be true.
2. Apply pressure
The man is pressuring his victims to confirm their reservation and make payment quickly, telling them availability is running out.
It also gives the impression that there are a lot of interested parties who are snapping up the case. The supposed popularity of the deal makes it even more legitimate.
3. Act like a real friend
By sharing a name and phone number, the man appears as a real, traceable person who is ready to provide personal information about himself.
He also continues to liaise with his victims on WhatsApp, sometimes making jokes and offering deals like a good friend would.
4. Eliminate doubts and suspicions
Whenever someone raises doubts, the man is not offended by their questions. Instead, he’s sympathetic and acts like he understands their predicament.
He would reassure his victims in several ways, for example by claiming that he “has been doing this for years” and saying that he would certainly meet them in person to complete the hotel reservation.
To further dispel suspicion, the man would also send victims screenshots of previous transactions he made with other parties, such as those showing him accepting more expensive bookings and refunding unfulfilled transactions.
“What crook pays back money? We can see him trying to convince a victim.
5. Access additional requests
Do you have a special request for your stay at the hotel? Whether it’s needing an extra bed or wanting a cake, the man seems more than willing to help brief the hotel on behalf of his victims.
6. Maintain a certain realism
However, note that man does not promise you the heavens.
Instead, he seems both helpful and realistic in telling his victims that he would do his best. This keeps its victims optimistic, but with manageable expectations.
The man also evokes the Covid-19 situation and the constantly evolving measures to help his cause.
One of the victims, ‘G’, told Stomp she was “softly spoken to” to shell out $ 1,300 for a hotel stay.
She said: “When I contacted the man last Saturday (December 11) via WhatsApp, he claimed to have been ‘sabotaged’ by people.
“Now that he has been arrested, I hope he will be punished accordingly. All of our hard earned money is simply gone because of this disgusting con artist!”
See more screenshots in the gallery.