Eagle-eyed bank staff saved customers from scams

(From left) DBS Bank teller Sally Tay, OCBC Bank customer service manager Kristie Chiang and OCBC Bank teller Alson Ong helped to prevent their customers from getting scammed. The trio were among nine who received public spiritedness awards at Bedok
(From left) DBS Bank teller Sally Tay, OCBC Bank customer service manager Kristie Chiang and OCBC Bank teller Alson Ong helped to prevent their customers from getting scammed. The trio were among nine who received public spiritedness awards at Bedok Police Division yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Her mission from "Interpol" was simple: Withdraw the $64,000 that had been deposited into her bank account, and pass it to an "Interpol officer".

The housewife in her 50s was told she would get into trouble if she did not help the organisation, and an "Interpol officer" accompanied her to a DBS Bank branch to make the withdrawal on Oct 7.

But a sharp-eyed bank teller felt that something was amiss, as the "officer" answered all of her questions on the woman's behalf - even though it was the woman's bank account.

Ms Sally Tay, 50, realised the woman was an unwitting money mule after probing further, and immediately called the police for assistance. Yesterday, Ms Tay was one of nine who received the public spiritedness award at Bedok Police Division.

For Ms Tay, another warning sign was when she checked the woman's records and discovered that the money had been transferred into the account on the day itself. The woman's savings had also been transferred out a few days before.

Ms Tay alerted her supervisor, who told her to speak to the woman separately while an auxiliary officer kept watch on the man.

The woman told her that an "Interpol officer" said she was in trouble for a crime overseas and "Interpol" needed her cooperation. She even gave them her PIN number, said Ms Tay, adding that the victim believed "Interpol" was holding her savings that was earlier withdrawn.

"She kept begging to let her withdraw the money, but I told her that if she couldn't give me a logical explanation for where the funds came from, I couldn't authorise it," said Ms Tay.

She convinced the woman to tell the police, who took the man away for investigation.

 
 
 

"I felt quite sad for the victim, but happy that I managed to stop the transaction," Ms Tay added.

At the OCBC Bank branch in Parkway Parade, customer service manager Kristie Chiang, 42, has come across several scams in her 12 years with the bank.

So when her colleague Alson Ong, 31, told her he suspected that a 78-year-old customer had fallen for a love scam, Ms Chiang immediately informed the bank's fraud detection department.

The authorities intercepted the woman's transaction of $40,000 to a suspected fraudster who messaged her sweet nothings such as "I love you" and "I miss you".

Both Ms Chiang and Mr Ong were also commended yesterday.

Said Mr Ong: "We don't want this to happen to us or our family members, so, of course, we don't want this to happen to our customers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'Eagle-eyed bank staff saved customers from scams'. Print Edition | Subscribe