By Terry Xu
A viral facebook posting that went around in April 2013, mentioned an interior designer (ID) going around scamming victims out of their deposits for renovation works at their flats. Till date 12 cases have been listed out as victims under this ID and 8 families have filed police reports against him. The Online Citizen (TOC) approached the poster of the viral facebook posting and hears from her about her story.
Meticulously flipping through stacks of corresponding emails, sms messages between her and the interior designer and receipts for the deposits paid, Suz (not her real name) does not appear to be a careless consumer.
Suz first met with the ID who was then introduced by a friend at the Housing Development Board (HDB). Impressed with craftsmanship by the ID’s company, Suz signed a renovation contract with the company last December 2012 paying a deposit of $5200. (Total $5400 with another $200 earlier deposits).
Everything was going along smoothly till renovation work had been delayed for a couple of times and the discovery that the work permit from HDB to commence renovation work has not been applied. Being hard pressed for time as Suz only had one month before her family were to move into the new flat. Suz tried to use ways and means to contact the ID to press for the completion the work for the flat but there has only been all sorts of excuses given on why the renovation work has not commenced.
All these sounded off an alarm for Suz and her husband.
Two of them went down to the interior designing company and discovered that the contract signed with the ID, is under a company not affiliated with that company. The ID had previously informed her that the contract is signed under a company that is affiliated with the original company. And also, the ID at that point was no longer working for the interior designing company.
Suz had initially wanted to make a police report but she dropped her thought of doing so after speaking to two earlier victims of this same ID. The two victims had shared with her that the police had classified their two earlier cases, one in February 2012 and the other in March 2012 as civil cases and advised the two of them to pursue via private legal means.
It was only through the viral post of her facebook status in April 2013, which alerted her to more victims of this ID. Victims’ losses ranged from a few thousand dollars to 20 over thousands in deposits to the ID.
Suz decided that this series of alleged scam should not be tolerated and made a police report on 14 April 2013.
However the investigation officer has not replied to Suz apart from receiving a letter of notice from the police that her case is being investigated after the police report was filed. Interestingly, the other victims who filed their cases earlier too received a letter of notice from the police with the same message about the same time.
Suz and the other victims approached Berita Harian to seek help on covering the story and had the story published on two separate occasions. The victims of the renovation scam were shocked to find out through the second report of Berita Harian on their story that police have now classified their cases as a cheating case instead of the original civil suits. They had not been informed by their investigation officer about this latest development.
TOC wrote to Singapore Police Force (SPF) on 15 May 2013 to check with the 8 police cases that have been filed by the victims of this series of renovation scam.
Instead of replying with updates of the cases, TOC was being redirected on 20 May 2013 to the facebook status update by SPF, posted on 17 May 2013 for clarifications. The updates indicate that the investigations on reports of incomplete work after collection of payments/deposits made, are on-going and that the public to be mindful of such cases.
Interestingly, there were a few other complaints of being victims of renovation scams other than the involved interior designer in the comment thread.
Asked on what Suz have to say about her ordeal and what the victims would hope to see about their issue.
She said that they want to see the ID behind bars. Though they initially thought of getting their money back but it would seem impossible given that he probably would not have any money with him. They just want him arrested by the police to serve as a stern warning to any person/contractor who intends to cheat ordinary citizens like them out of their hard earned money.
Suz had since paid a separate sum to complete the renovation work and is now staying in her flat with her husband. Though everything seems to have settled down, she is still determined to seek justice for the victims and also to prevent such incidents from happening again. She says that she is worried that there might be others out there who might be cheated.
The interior designer mentioned in this article has not been arrested till date.[divide]
If you feel that you might have been a victim of similar renovation scams, please do write in to us at [email protected] to share with us your story.