A Chinese seafood restaurant in Joo Chiat has allegedly been a victim of a scam, losing more than $4,600 to a “regular customer” who has been using screenshots of PayNow transactions to cheat them for free meals for more than 2 years, according to a report by 8world.
The Elaborate Ruse
The elaborate scam involved the scammer utilizing Home of Seafood’s online ordering service. After enjoying a meal, they would send fabricated PayNow transfer screenshots to the restaurant, appearing to confirm successful payment.
It was a cunning strategy that had the owners, especially Bob, the restaurant owner, completely fooled. He shared with 8world that the scam had been running for 2 whole years, and the deception had only recently come to light.
What makes this case truly perplexing is the level of detail that went into creating the counterfeit PayNow transfer screenshots.
Bob, the 43-year-old owner, expressed his astonishment at how realistic they looked. The timestamps and other crucial details appeared entirely accurate, making it nearly impossible for the restaurant staff to distinguish the fake transactions from genuine ones.
In his own words to Lianhe Zaobao, Bob admitted, “We couldn’t tell that the screenshots were fake at that moment.” This level of sophistication added an extra layer of complexity to the scam.
Despite the scammer’s cunning tactics, one aspect remained consistent throughout the ordeal: their contact number. The restaurant owner noted that the scammer consistently used the same phone number to interact with the establishment.
However, the delivery addresses and the individuals picking up the food occasionally differed, adding another layer of confusion and misdirection to the scheme.
Exploiting a Loophole
To place an order through Home of Seafood’s online platform, customers were required to send a screenshot of their PayNow transfer via WhatsApp for payment verification.
Herein lay the critical loophole that the scammer successfully exploited. The previous accountant responsible for verifying payments didn’t thoroughly scrutinize the records, providing ample room for the scam to continue unchecked. It was only after a new accountant took over, at Bob’s insistence, that the truth began to emerge.
Bob revealed that verifying PayNow payments for online orders was a time-consuming task for the restaurant. Logging into the bank account each time to confirm payments became a cumbersome process.
Despite the scam, the restaurant remains committed to providing a convenient and trustworthy service to its genuine customers.
As Bob stated, “We cannot create inconvenience for other customers who are innocent, just because one customer decided to use PayNow to swindle us.”
Taking Legal Action
In response to the extensive scamming, Home of Seafood has taken the matter to the authorities and filed a police report.
Investigations are currently underway to identify the perpetrator and hold them accountable for their actions.