She traded her YSL bag for a fake Chanel bag
Hedge fund manager plays detective after getting fake goods in online exchange
When Miss Summer Lee, 25, found out that the Chanel bag she had traded her two-week-old YSL bag for was fake, she was furious.
The hedge fund manager, who buys, sells and trades branded goods as a hobby, said: "The Chanel bag, if authentic, is worth more than $5,000 second-hand.
"But the fake bag - I think it's only worth $20."
Miss Lee met the trader, who claimed to be a tai tai, on electronic marketplace app Carousell in late October.
After chatting online for a few hours, they agreed to an exchange.
The tai tai would trade a second-hand Chanel bag worth about $5,000 and a second-hand Bvlgari ring worth $450 for Miss Lee's $2,800 YSL bag and branded sunglasses worth about $300.
Miss Lee would transfer $1,700 to the tai tai's bank account to make up the balance.
Miss Lee transferred the money and the tai tai said her "driver" would make the exchange at Miss Lee's flat in Choa Chu Kang the next day.
But the "driver" did not let her check the Chanel bag for authenticity. He took her YSL bag, which also contained the sunglasses, and left.
Miss Lee said: "The moment I saw the Chanel box, I knew something was wrong. It had a mouldy smell and was wrapped very tightly in newspapers.
"I told him I wanted to check the item before going through with the trade, but he kept saying he was in a rush, grabbed the bag and ran off."
Miss Lee said she did not give chase as she was too stunned and was alone at home.
She realised she had been scammed after checking the bag, which had wrong tags and serial numbers.
She also took the bag to a Chanel store in Orchard, where staff confirmed it was fake.
Besides making a police report on the day of the incident, Miss Lee also made a report to Carousell.
A police spokesman confirmed that a report was made. They are investigating.
Miss Lee felt that was not enough and tried to "trap" the scammer.
As the trader's Carousell account was still active after the incident, she got her friends to feign interest in the person's other listings to get the contact number.
She also set up six accounts to inquire about the goods listed, which included television sets and more branded bags.
However, all the numbers given were prepaid card numbers that went out of service after several days.
When contacted, a Carousell spokesman said the reported user's account has been suspended.
They will also assist police investigations by providing any information requested.
Despite Miss Lee's friends and family telling her to abandon her attempts to identify the culprit, she was determined to pursue the matter.
"I was on holiday in Korea then and my friend told me to just relax and enjoy myself.
"But I was so upset that it happened, I had to continue investigating, even on my holiday," she said.
Then, a friend spotted her YSL bag being sold by another user on Carousell earlier this month.
Said Miss Lee: "It was the last piece at the store in that colour and the box in the photo had the exact same stain as the one I had.
"So I knew it had to be mine."
She contacted the user and learnt that the listing belonged to a woman who had been promised $20 by her tenant if the sale was successful.
The woman showed her the tenant's photo, whom Miss Lee recognised as the "driver".
"I contacted him on Facebook, but he just kept denying everything," Miss Lee said.
"He said he didn't know the bag was a fake and (claimed) he probably got cheated by the previous owner."
Miss Lee handed over what she found to the police.
While she will leave it to them to investigate for now, she intends to take legal action against the scammer.
She added: "Actually, this whole detective thing was quite exciting.
"And I hope that the police will be able to act quickly with the additional information."
While she may not get her money back, she hopes "justice will be served".
At least 30 people have messaged her to share their experiences after she posted about what happened.
"It's not a matter of money. Such online scams are becoming more common and it seems like they are not being taken seriously," said Miss Lee.
"If I can get people to take my case seriously, other people will get a chance as well."
I told him that I wanted to check the item before going through with the trade, but he kept saying he was in a rush.
- Miss Summer Lee, 25
Tough to prove intention to sell fake goods
It could be a criminal case of cheating if one knew the goods were fake and passed them off as real so that the other party would hand over his or her items, said Mr Ravinderpal Singh of Kalco Law.
Mr Singh also said such retail scams were getting more common among online traders, with the surge in buyers and sellers on various electronic marketplaces such as Carousell and Gumtree.
Mr Rajan Supramaniam of Hilborne Law said he has seen fewer than 10 cases of online retail fraud, but would not be surprised if the numbers increased because online trading is getting more popular.
Mr Supramaniam also said such cases are relatively new and it is uncertain how they will stand in court.
"Proving that the suspect had the intention to sell fake goods is not easy. Also, if the suspect says that he did not know the goods were fake, he will have to prove it. He can't simply say that he didn't know," he said.
"I've seen a couple of clients with such cases and I would normally advise them of the legal costs and merits of their case.
"If the legal costs outweigh the value of the goods or if their chances aren't high, then sometimes, we might advise them not to pursue."
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR CHEATS
Carousell has a zero-tolerance policy towards dishonest acts, said the online marketplace platform's spokesman.
Responding to Miss Lee's experience, the spokesman said: "We strongly urge our community to report counterfeit items and errant users so that our team may take the necessary action to mitigate such situations."
The spokesman added: "If users feel that there is insufficient information about a product, or if they feel uncomfortable with a seller, we urge them to come to an arrangement that... protects both parties' interests.
"If an agreement is not reached, we would urge users not to proceed and look for an alternative seller."
According to police statistics for the first half of this year, the number of cheating cases involving e-commerce increased to 1,015 cases, from 613 cases during the same period last year.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now