Avoiding scams in Singapore - What you need to know

Singapore can be a great place for tourists to shop, eat and experience the local life.

And this can be a blessing for scammers and hustlers as well who take advantage of unsuspecting tourists both sober and non sober.

But you can be steps ahead of the petty crims if you know what to watch out for and how to avoid scams which will steal your hard earned dollars.

Common scams in Singapore

Social behaviour scams

There has been a recent surge is reported scams involving the nation's "outrage of modesty" law. Tourists and expats have been accused of touching a woman inappropriately in a nightclub and asked for a hefty settlement to avoid police charges.

This is how it works: travelling businessman cuts loose at a nightclub, has a few drinks too many, and is approached by a local woman. She lays on the charm, and the man, inevitably, falls for it. His hands get a little too bold, and she accuses him of molestation, or outrage of modesty.

Two heavies come to her defense, threatening to call the police unless the businessman gives her hush money, which can be in the thousands of dollars. Usually the victims pays up because he's drunk, confused, and don't want to get ensnared in the law or receive the punishment: the rattan cane.

Even if he contests it, the law might side with the accuser. There were 96 cases of outrage of modesty reported in Singapore in 2010, and 108 the year before. We can't extrapolate how many of those were bogus accusation, or how many were scams that were settled privately.

The lesson is: don't get too drunk, and keep your hands on a leash.

Bogus monks & nuns

This is a scam not limited to Singapore but commonly found in Asian destinations. You may be approached by a "buddhist" monk or nun asking for donations. Buddhist monks and nuns do not beg for money nor do they persistently pester people. Report it immediately to local police.

Restaurant scams

Another scam to watch out for is with retail prices. Certain hawker centres - food courts, essentially - have been known to charge absurd prices for a meal. In one famous case, an American tourist was charged nearly 500 SGD for a meal for six, including 239 SGD for eight prawns.

However, justice was swift. This caused a national scandal and the seller was shut down for three months. Still, best to avoid an unpleasant scenario. Always check prices at hawker centres, especially the touristy ones like Lau Pa Sat and Newton.

Singapore is famous for its chilli crab however some tourists have reported receiving less than the whole crab they ordered.

Credit card swaps can also happen at restaurants. You give your card to the waiter to pay the bill and they return, handing you the card back with the receipt wrapped around the card. The card looks similar to yours so you don't think much of it. Only to discover it's not yours when you go to use it later or an old expired card. Never let your card out of sight.

Other things dodgy restaurants may charge for which are usually complimentary or charge an exhorbitant price for include: wet wipes, paper napkins, a sliced mango, desserts you didn't order, peanuts, $30 chinese broccoli, charging for the vegetables in fried rice and more.

Shopping scams

There have been some reports of the infamous "white van scam" in Singapore. This is where a man in a van claims to have a surplus high-quality audio equipment and offers an absurdly low price for it. The gear will have a name that sounds like a reputable brand but is, in fact, a cheap knockoff. Ignore any such offers.

Additionally, many tourists have sadly experienced the fake goods situation. e.g Some thought they were buying a genuine iPad only to discover that the iPad is not what they paid for in terms of features or totally fake.

Property rental scams

People wishing to rent property in Singapore should exercise caution. Real estate fraud has stung a visitor or two. Although there are several types of scam the idea is the same: request money up front from a foreigner who doesn't know the rights and safeguards of tenants.

For example, a real estate broker can offer a lower price if you pay a whole year's rent up front. Others might take a deposit for a time-share that doesn't exist. To avoid being taken for a ride, prospective tenants must follow due diligence: make sure the agent is legit, confirm the name of the landlord with a proof of ownership, and read through all the legal documents. And never pay in cash: issue a cheque or cashier's order to the name of the owner.

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3 Comments

  • Anderson Smith said

    I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  • Chris said

    Orchard Towers Bars - overcharging scam, drink spiked and assaulted

    Jan 2016 I attended the Orchard Towers Crazy Horse Disco Pub and bought two drinks with cash, I then used three credit/debit cards for further drinks, which have been massively overcharged.

    I did not receive any services or goods to amount to this excessive charged
    The practices being deployed are dishonest
    The amount on the credit card machine is not aligned to the bill
    Receipts are not given
    I suspect my drink was spiked
    I suspect the PIN is being filmed (my card company said one card was run 8 times in a one minute window)
    Having informed the bar of the overcharging they informed me "Hard Luck we have the PIN you need to dispute with the card issuing bank"
    Charged $4,261.00 SPD across three cards as follows:-

    £2,070.00 out of pocket - for a few gin and tonics,

  • Mark said

    Yes Here is one scam

    http://mark24609.blogspot.com/2018/06/scams-in-singapore-jacky-tabanag.html

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