Victims share his manipulation tactics

A 45-year-old man has been arrested for cheating after allegedly accepting payment for hotel reservations which he later failed to honor.

Several victims had come across the man’s alleged advertisement for hotel reservations on the Carousell e-commerce platform and contacted him via WhatsApp. However, they did not receive hotel reservations after making payment via bank transfer and PayNow.

Police said they received multiple reports in December from victims about the alleged scam. Through investigations, officers from the Woodlands Police Division established the man’s identity and arrested him on Wednesday, December 15.

“Preliminary investigations have revealed that the man was involved in at least 29 similar cases with total reported losses amounting to $30,000,” police added.

The man will be charged in court on Friday with cheating, which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.

Several of the man’s victims have come forward to Stomp to share their experiences.

Trampler J said he managed to connect with 29 other victims who had also fallen prey to the man’s hotel booking scam.

The 30 parties, who are in a WhatsApp group, had made police reports from December 11 to 17.

Recounting her experience, Stomper J said: “My wife made a $1300 payment through PayNow on December 6th on my behalf for a one night stay in an ocean suite on December 11th.

“The man went MIA on the morning of December 11. We tried to bombard his phone number with calls and WhatsApp 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 as he led us to believe him by sending us great reviews from other customers and followed up promptly after we paid.

“Turns out he got these great reviews by tricking previous customers into making payment and then refunding them the full amount. He told them he had Covid-19 so he was unable to fill reservations.

“Fortunately, we were able to contact one of the users who had reviewed it previously and she was able to connect us with other victims.

“Together we discovered that his ultimate plan was to trick us all in a 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 inferred from the way he talks to his victims, as seen in the screenshots shared with Stomp.

Here are some of his subtle tactics:

1. Give an offer that’s too good to miss

Here, the man applies the modus operandi of most scammers: sharing what seems like a very 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, letting them think they are getting a huge deal.

Too good to miss? Rather too good to be true.

2. Apply pressure

The man pressures his victims to confirm their reservation and make payment quickly, telling them that availability is scarce.

It also gives the impression that many interested parties are taking over the case. The supposed popularity of the deal makes it even more legit.

3. Act like a real friend

By sharing a name and phone number, the man comes across as a real, traceable person who is open to providing personal information about himself.

He also continues to liaise with his victims on WhatsApp, occasionally cracking jokes and offering deals like a true 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 a number of ways, such as saying he’s “been doing this for years” and saying he’d definitely meet them in person to fill out the hotel reservation.

To further dispel suspicion, the man was also sending victims screenshots of previous transactions he had made with other parties, such as those showing him accepting more expensive bookings and refunding unfulfilled transactions.

“Which crook refunds the money?” he can be seen trying to convince a victim.

5. Access additional requests

Do you have a special request for your stay at the hotel? Whether it’s asking for an extra bed or wanting a cake, the man seems more than willing to help inform the hotel on behalf of his victims.

6. Maintain a degree of realism

However, note that the man does not promise you heaven.

Instead, he comes across as both helpful and realistic in telling his victims that he would do his best. This keeps its victims hopeful but with manageable expectations.

The man also discusses the Covid-19 situation and the ever-changing measures to help his cause.

One of the victims, ‘G’, told Stomp she had been “speak kindly” to shell out $1,300 for a hotel stay.

She said: “When I contacted the man last Saturday (December 11) via WhatsApp, he claimed he had been ‘sabotaged’ by people.

“Now that he’s been arrested, I hope he’s punished accordingly. All of our hard-earned money is just gone because of this sickening scammer!”

See more screenshots in the gallery.

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