SINGAPORE – A tech equipment reseller company came close to losing more than $100,000 worth of laptops to a scam.

The reseller is now trying to find legitimate buyers for the equipment.

The firm thought that it was receiving an order from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) when it got an e-mail from a Mr Daniel Chong on July 18.

Mr Chong, who claimed to be from NTU’s procurement division, ordered 50 Dell laptops, asking the company to deliver them first to Penanshin Air Express, a freight forwarder.

Mr N.P. (not his real name), 53, the tech reseller’s co-founder, told The Straits Times: “When we received the e-mail, we did not think there was anything wrong.

“Previously, when NTU launched tenders requesting laptops, we had always participated. So we thought that we were already in their list of prospective vendors and that the e-mail was legitimate.”

It was only when Mr Bernard Chan, 44, director of Penanshin Air Express, informed him that the purchase order was fake that Mr N.P. realised he had fallen victim to a business e-mail compromise (BEC) scam.

BEC involves the sending of e-mails supposedly from the victims’ colleagues, business partners or suppliers.

Unknown to the victims, these e-mails are sent by scammers, who have hacked into the e-mail accounts of these business contacts or who are sending them from spoofed e-mail addresses.

Between January and June, there were 209 cases of BEC scams reported, with $67.7 million lost, the police said.

This is more than thrice the $22.3 million lost to such scams from January to June last year, when 164 cases were reported.

Using another alias when he contacted Mr Chan, the scammer had posed as an employee of GP Industries, a Singapore-based battery manufacturer.

But when the scammer informed Mr Chan that he would arrange for a courier to pick up and ship the laptops to Britain, the Penanshin Air Express director realised it was a scam.