OCBC Bank staff took 7 hours to dissuade victim

Ms Chiang was commended by the police for helping to foil an Internet love scam that took place last month at the Marine Parade OCBC branch where she works.
Ms Chiang was commended by the police for helping to foil an Internet love scam that took place last month at the Marine Parade OCBC branch where she works.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

It took a bank employee about seven hours to dissuade a woman in her 60s from remitting money to a "friend" who claimed to have been detained at Kuala Lumpur airport for smuggling gold last month.

The man, supposedly a pilot in his 30s, had been in contact with the older woman for five years and called her "honey", said Ms Kristie Chiang, a customer service manager at OCBC Bank's Marine Parade branch.

"At the counter, she was impatient and wanted us to hurry up. The teller sensed something was wrong and alerted one of our officers, who asked the customer more questions," said Ms Chiang, who was then informed of the incident.

The woman believed her friend had been held up at Customs, and she had to remit RM5,000 (about S$1,650) to help him.

But the friend's name did not match that of the account number she was remitting money to, and the location did not correspond either.

"All she wanted was to save (him) from trouble. She was very afraid," recalled Ms Chiang, who then spoke to the scammer over the telephone. He had been calling the older woman even while she was at the bank.

He refused to reveal his identity. "He just kept crying and saying he was going to die," said Ms Chiang.

When she spoke to the "Customs officer" in Malaysia to ask for proof, the other party became agitated.

After hours of persuasion, she accompanied the woman to make a police report.

The woman returned an hour later to insist again on remitting the money, only to be stopped by Ms Chiang.

"Such things are common recently, so (our office) gives us a lot of information on these scams," said Ms Chiang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Staff took 7 hours to dissuade victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe