Woman left with $99 after losing $55k in scam

Housewife cheated of life savings by scammer who called on Viber claiming to be from DBS

The woman had provided the caller, who claimed to be from DBS Bank, with her bank card number and iBanking PIN. PHOTOS: LABINA FARIAH/FACEBOOK

The police are investigating an incident in which a 60-year-old housewife had her life savings of $55,000 wiped out from her bank account after falling victim to a scam that was carried out through messaging platform Viber.

In a post last Tuesday, Facebook user Labina Fariah outlined how her mother, a widow, was duped by the scammer, and left with only $99 in her account.

Ms Labina said that she decided to share details of the incident to alert others so they would be spared from going through the same ordeal.

According to Ms Labina, someone called her mother on Viber and claimed to be from DBS Bank last Monday afternoon.

The caller told her mother that "he was going to check on her account as he noticed that the account was being hacked".

Despite having some doubts and asking why the call was made via Viber instead of a local number, Ms Labina's mother "fell for his words" and provided the caller with her bank card number and PIN.

"My mother's entire life savings were wiped out just with one single OTP (one-time password) and she was only left with $99," wrote Ms Labina.

Her mother sensed something was amiss when the bank e-mailed her notifying her that money transfers had been transacted four times.

Panic-stricken, she called Ms Labina, who told her to update her bank book to check.

A police report was made on the same day. The police confirmed that a report was lodged and they are investigating.

Ms Labina questioned how the huge transaction was allowed to go through despite its dubious nature.

She also sought advice on blocking such transactions and retrieving the money.

When contacted about the case, DBS Bank said it wanted to remind customers to always be vigilant, and never give out their personal security information, enter sensitive information into unknown websites, click on website links originating from unknown sources or reply to unsolicited SMSes, e-mails or calls.

"Please note that DBS/POSB will never request our customers to download software, disclose their Internet banking access credentials (such as username or password, OTP, digital token approval), or to conduct any fund transfers over the phone," the bank said.

Customers can contact the bank through its 24-hour hotline on 1800-111-1111 if they notice suspicious activity in their accounts.

On customers who have already been scammed, lawyer Amarick Gill told The Sunday Times: "Most of the time, it's a lost cause. It is tough to track.

"Victims can commence a civil suit against the scammer but recovery will be almost impossible, even if the scammer is caught."

In an advisory last Tuesday, the police warned the public about similar scams targeting bank customers.

The police have received at least 60 reports of such scams since January last year, with losses totalling at least $1.6 million.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 19, 2020, with the headline Woman left with $99 after losing $55k in scam. Subscribe