Beware, that 'admin fee' for your parcel may be a scam

Mrs Ang (right) of Western Union had been trained to spot parcel scams and was able to prevent a customer from falling victim to one.
Mrs Ang (right) of Western Union had been trained to spot parcel scams and was able to prevent a customer from falling victim to one.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Two weeks ago, a 62-year-old woman received a call from a foreign number to say that a parcel for her had been "detained by foreign authorities" and she had to remit an "administrative fee" of US$5,660 (S$7,800) so it could be delivered to her.

She approached Mrs Richelle Ang at Western Union who discovered that a man the woman befriended online had promised to send her valuable items including a diamond ring and a laptop.

Luckily Mrs Ang, a senior customer service officer for the remittance agency, had been trained to spot parcel scams and prevented what could have been a costly mistake. She received a commendation letter from the police last Friday for her actions.

The 40-year-old, who works at the Ang Mo Kio MRT station branch, said: "I thought to myself: 'Why would a parcel for this woman be held in Malaysia and not Singapore?'

"I asked the woman to show me the e-mail conversation she had with the man. I thought it was suspicious and told her to lodge a police report to see if this was real before proceeding with the transaction."

Officers from the Community Policing Unit at Ang Mo Kio South Neighbourhood Police Centre have worked closely with Western Union staff, educating them on how to detect signs of scams.

Mrs Ang said she had also come across two other incidents involving parcel scams this month, one involving US$500 and the other US$700. Both victims were female and in their 40s to 60s.

Mrs Ang said: "Usually, we would ask the customer 'Do you know the person you are sending money to?', 'Have you met this person?' and 'What is the purpose of transaction?'

"It's not easy to detect such scams. You have to use the right voice and ask the right questions, then they will disclose more information to you."

Police said scams involving parcels and courier deliveries have been on the rise over the last two months.

Last month, they alerted the public to a crime in which culprits impersonate staff from courier companies like DHL claiming that the victims' passport number has been used to send parcels containing fake passports or weapons.

Police said they received almost 400 reports about the "DHL" scam last month, with victims losing more than $1,000,000.

The caller would ask for personal particulars such as passport details, NRIC and bank account numbers. In some cases, the caller would ask for money to be transferred to bank accounts in China.

Police have urged the public not to transfer money to people they do not know well, or to reveal personal details. Any such cases should be reported immediately.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Beware, that 'admin fee' for your parcel may be a scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe