Remittance agency staff foil phone scam

It is the third time that staff at Zhongguo Remittance have helped to foil remittance scams.
It is the third time that staff at Zhongguo Remittance have helped to foil remittance scams.PHOTO: ZHONGGUO REMITTANCE/FACEBOOK

They alert police after targeted victim went to transfer $8,500 over 'contraband parcel'

A 22-year-old was nearly cheated of $8,500 on Thursday, but thanks to quick-thinking staff at a remittance agency, the money was recovered in full.

The would-be victim, who received a phone call on Thursday at around 9.50am, was told that a contraband parcel was sent to Shanghai in his name and that the Shanghai police were investigating him for money laundering.

Under the guise of Chinese officials, the callers instructed him to provide his bank details and wire money to them. In the afternoon, he went to his regular remittance company, Zhongguo Remittance at People's Park Complex.

While attending to the targeted victim, staff member Li Chun Li smelt a rat and alerted her supervisor Wang Meiqin, who then notified the police.

Officers from the Central Division and Commercial Affairs Department responded to the call and established that it was a scam. Action was then taken to recover the money.

The police advised people to be wary of unsolicited calls from unknown parties, especially since caller-spoofing technology can be used to display a different phone number.

It is the third time that Zhongguo Remittance has helped to foil a remittance scam. Its staff also intervened in earlier cases when victims tried to remit $1,000 to scammers on Aug 3 and $25,000 last month.

Phone scams involving parcels have cost people millions of dollars. Some 150 people reportedly lost a total of more than $12 million after falling for a phone scam in which fraudsters, posing as staff from courier company DHL, claimed they needed to remit cash to clear their names.

The sums were handed over between late March and June.

The police advised people to be wary of unsolicited calls from unknown parties, especially since caller-spoofing technology can be used to display a different phone number. Even if the phone number appears to be a local number, recipients of such calls should hang up, wait five minutes and then redial the number to make sure the call was legitimate.

The police also reminded people to refrain from freely giving out personal information and bank details.

People should ignore orders to remit or transfer money, as no government agency would demand payment over the phone, much less into a third party's bank account.

If anyone has information or doubts related to such crimes, they can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or dial 999.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Remittance agency staff foil phone scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe