Alert remittance worker stopped scammer from cheating woman of $15k

Mr Chi Xiao Biao, a counter staff member at Hanshan Money Express Remittance, with his Community Partnership Award. He was one of 108 individuals and 15 organisations lauded by the Commercial Affairs Department for their contributions to detecting an
Mr Chi Xiao Biao, a counter staff member at Hanshan Money Express Remittance, with his Community Partnership Award. He was one of 108 individuals and 15 organisations lauded by the Commercial Affairs Department for their contributions to detecting and preventing scams.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

When Mr Chi Xiao Biao, a counter staff member at Hanshan Money Express Remittance, encountered an anxious customer attempting to transfer cash urgently to an overseas bank account via the company's express service, he knew something was amiss.

Because of his vigilance, he managed to save the woman in her mid-40s from being scammed of $15,000.

Investigations subsequently revealed she had been tricked into believing that she was paying a mandatory processing fee in order to claim a $600,000 lucky draw prize.

"The customer seemed nervous and insisted on (using) our express service to get the $15,000 remitted as fast as possible," said Mr Chi of the incident which took place in May last year.

"I realised she was being coached by a scammer over an active WeChat voice call on exactly what to say to staff at the remittance company, to get us to transfer large sums (of money) without asking too many questions."

He confronted the scammer over the phone, and the person hung up after a brief argument.

Mr Chi, 52, was one of 108 individuals and 15 organisations recently lauded by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for their contributions to detecting and preventing scams.

These awards also recognise the closer cooperation between commercial entities and the authorities to combat scams.

Last year, recipients of CAD's Community Partnership Awards - which include banks, remittance agencies and commercial enterprises - intervened in 91 scam incidents involving more than $5 million worth of potential losses.

This is compared with the more than $1 million in 87 scam cases intercepted in 2018.

The police attribute this increase in monies recovered to the swift intervention of these organisations and their close collaboration with the CAD to develop and implement anti-scam measures.

 
 
 

CAD director David Chew said: "The Covid-19 situation has brought about a new normal - digitalisation of the public space. Scams have become more prevalent and the Community Partnership Award is a testament that the partnership between the police and our community is important in combating this scam trend."

More complex methods are also being employed by criminals to hoodwink their victims.

This was exactly what happened in a scam thwarted by staff at OCBC Bank, where scammers pretended to be tech support staff and government agents.

In November last year, the bank flagged a $190,000 transfer by a man in his 60s to a bank account in Hong Kong.

When OCBC staff contacted him, his evasiveness and insistence that the money was going to "his cousin in Hong Kong" raised red flags.

The bank managed to recall the transaction within hours and the victim did not lose any money.

It later came to light that the man was convinced by scammers posing as Singtel tech support staff that he had been roped into a secret mission by the "Cyber Security Crime Department". No such department or agency exists.

He was instructed by the scammers to transfer the large sum of money immediately, to be used as "bait" for criminals.

Mr Royston Soon, vice-president of fraud risk management at OCBC, said: "Once money leaves the customer's account, particularly in the case of instantaneous bank transfers, it is usually an uphill battle to recall the transaction.

"We urge customers to stay vigilant and not to share personal details like one-time PINs."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'Alert remittance worker stopped scammer from cheating woman of $15k'. Print Edition | Subscribe