I Have Been Scammed

By Sarah Aterrado - November 29, 2023

For the first time in my entire life, I got scammed.

I thought I was smart enough not to be fooled, but here I am.

I was on Facebook, mindlessly viewing how my friends spent the last 24 hours. And in the middle of these stories, I came across a video ad. I didn't even bother to watch it but this fat, arthritic thumb accidentally tapped the link when what I was trying to do was swipe forward. Curse this high-speed internet and fast-processing phone, the Shein app opened before I can tap the back button (or maybe my fat, arthritic thumb was just painfully slow).

What flashed on my screen was, thankfully, not a malware or a p0rn site. It was rather a giveaway from Shein and all you have to do is answer the survey questions that could get you a chance of winning a Php45,000 worth of gift card. 

For someone whose wardrobe is half-filled with clothes from Shein, this was really tempting. What do I have to lose anyway? 

Of course, I had to double check if it really was from Shein. 

So I checked the recently used apps. The Shein icon on top of the current, active app is—no doubt—the official Shein app (icon looks like that because this was during the Black Friday sale).

I also opened the app from the applications screen and it took me right where I left off: the giveaway.

It took me less than two minutes to answer all 7 questions and play a game. And guess what?!

I won!

Luck has never been on my side when it comes luck-based games and raffle draws. This is my first time winning something huge. What are the odds, right?

A 45,000-peso worth of gift card giveaway might sound sketchy. But not when it's from an app you've had several transactions with. And when you only have to pay Php179 for the delivery, there's not much to lose. Really.

This is where I admit there was carelessness on my part. But, come on! Who does not get excited with such a big giveaway and winning it at that?! 

So I entered my credit card details and delivery address even though at that moment I was already wondering why I have to do it over again when those details have already been saved in the app. But I proceeded with the payment anyway. After all, every purchase I made with Shein was paid with a credit card (because of the 10% discount) and everything is good so far. 

And now I think I might have made a grave mistake.

Because right after checking out, I read this:

Hang on. That is not right.

So I Googled yogaroutine.pro. And this is what I found:

Uh-oh. I am two dollars too late.

I had to check again if I am still on Shein app and not on an internet browser or any other app. 

Yep, still on Shein. 

So I took screenshots because it was right after the end of the transaction when I started to see some inconsistencies,  and something definitely smelled fishy.

First, I was charged $2 when it was previously stated that I will pay Php179. $2 is around Php111—a value that does not come close to 179. Plus, all of my transactions on Shein (regardless of payment method) were in peso, never in dollar.

Second, why the fudge should my bank statement show yogaroutine.pro when the transaction was in and with Shein?!

These were my past purchases and this is how it should reflect on my bank statement.
Third, I thought they're going to ship the gift card? Isn't that what the Php179 was for?

Something was definitely off. So I immediately checked my email. 

Found nothing.

I normally do not check the junk mail but this time, I am thankful I did. Because lo and behold, I have been subscribed to a yoga membership located in Cyprus. And if I haven't read this, I would have been charged Є27.50 (approx. Php 1,700) in a few days and probably every month without my knowledge.

I have always been vigilant when it comes to online transactions since Ragnarok Online and ebay days, around twenty years ago. I am good at sniffing out scams. I have never—not once—fell victim until two days ago.

I am not worried about the money I paid for since I was able to cancel the unintended subscription. Or I can file a dispute for unauthorized transaction and have the charges reversed if cancellation isn't an option. But what baffles me is how advanced these scams have become. I DID EVERYTHING WITHIN THE SHEIN APP. Who would have thought?

I was able to browse my cart while on the giveaway page. Clearly, it was done on Shein app.
So let this be a lesson to everyone to not ever trust external links even if it brings you to an official, legitimate app. Believe only in promotions and giveaways that are from the app or official page itself. I submitted a ticket regarding this and since Shein responded that it was not a legitimate giveaway/transaction, then there is certainly a lack of security on their part.

For the record, Shein is a legitimate business albeit they might have other issues but that is beside the point. And con artists have been very creative and they were able to find ways how to use and exploit legitimate platforms. How they did it? Beats me. (If I were still working with mobile app developers, then I would have had a straight answer. But if anyone can explain me this, that would be appreciated.)
Left: Shein's checkout page. Mid: The giveaway checkout page. Right: This would show that the said giveaway checkout page is within the Shein app (video below would also show this).
Have I been phished? That remains to be seen. Until then, I will just be checking my banking app from time to time to watch out for unauthorized transactions.

Anyway, I have managed to get the ads' link and tried to replicate what happened. But this time, I have already set my phone to ask me first so that it doesn't open automatically. 

See for yourself: (full screen for best view)

If you have noticed the messed up timestamps on the screenshots, it's because I started taking screenshots only after checking out. Then I had to redo the whole process (without proceeding to payment this time) just so I can take more screenshots for proof.

Also, I don't think this will stop me from shopping on Shein though. Their clothes fit me well and they are not outrageously expensive. Hehe

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