The old phrase “caveat emptor”, or buyer beware, is gaining fresh currency in the online shopping age. Lockdown restrictions globally have driven shoppers online, accelerating a retail trend on a growth trajectory even before the coronavirus struck. A study by Visa found that three in four (74 per cent) consumers are shopping online more frequently and that one-third (31 per cent) of Singaporeans made purchases online for the first time as a result of the pandemic. The proliferation of shopping sites, the convenience of e-commerce and the spike in online shopping have also drawn criminals who prey on careless consumers. The police reported last year that e-commerce scams here doubled in the first quarter. The Consumers Association of Singapore recently said that it received 33 complaints last year about counterfeit goods being sold on e-commerce sites, up from 12 the year before.
What also is worrying now is the rising number of counterfeit goods such as “vaccines” and other dangerous pharmaceuticals being sold on such sites. A recent headline-grabbing example is the chemical 2,4-dinitrophenol, or DNP, used in World War II explosives but now being peddled online as a diet drug – and which has killed young users in the United States and United Kingdom.