More than US$9,600 (S$12,450) has been raised to buy a new iPhone 6 for a Vietnamese tourist who was scammed in Sim Lim Square and lost three month’s worth of salary.
Amounts ranging between US$1 and US$100 have been pledged by about 200 people for the online project started by Singaporean Gabriel Kang on crowdfunding site Indiegogo on Nov 4.
Mr Kang was hoping to raise US$1,000 to buy a new phone and other Singaporean gifts such as kaya and bak kwa for Mr Pham Van Thoai, 28.
On Nov 3, Mr Pham had agreed to pay $950 for an iPhone 6 at Mobile Air, an electronics shop that has been blacklisted by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for its questionable sales tactics, when the sales person asked him for an additional $1,500 for warranty expenses.
The Vietnamese man was told by the sales assistant that if he failed to pay the additional amount, he would not only lose the $950 but also the new phone.
Mr Pham, who earns about $200 a month as a factory worker in his country, panicked and broke down in tears. He knelt down, pleading with Mr Jover Chew, the owner of Mobile Air, to return his money. Police and Case had to intervene as well.
Mr Chew refused to budge. The incident was resolved with Mr Pham getting only $400 back.
Mr Kang, who said he is from a small local tech start-up, explained why he started the donation drive on Indiegogo. “This kind of scam should NOT be allowed to continue here, much less prosper like it has.”
Mr Pham’s plight also prompted offers of help from other Singaporeans.
At least 10 people wrote to The Straits Times, wanting to help him. One of them said he wanted to “salvage Singapore’s reputation”. Others were moved by his determination to work hard and provide for his girlfriend. There was even a web technology company that wanted to give him the phone.
But Mr Pham told evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that he would not accept offers of money.
He is not the only victim. A 19-year-old international student also told The Straits Times that she lost $551 to another shop, Mobile 22, in a similar way. At least two people have offered to help the student financially.