SINGAPORE: The proliferation of cybercrimes using third-party applications remains a growing concern in today’s digital landscape.
In a recent incident, a woman became a victim of such a scam, losing a substantial sum of S$37,000 (US$27,140) as a result of clicking on a deceptive link that led to a phishing application.
This unfortunate occurrence unfolded after the unsuspecting victim clicked on a seemingly innocent link, inadvertently installing malicious phishing software.
This software enabled scammers to gain unauthorized access to her bank account, leading to a series of illicit transactions that ultimately left the victim with a mere six cents in her savings.
According to Shin Min Daily News, it began when 48-year-old Zhong Luo, perusing her social media feed on 2 September, came across an enticing advertisement for homemade thunder tea rice.
Intrigued, she clicked on the link, which directed her to a website offering the dish for the attractive price of S$7.90 (US$5.8), with a tempting buy-two-get-one-free deal.
Given the scarcity of thunder tea rice sellers in Singapore, Luo decided to purchase three servings for her family.
She initiated contact with the seller through a messaging app and was promptly provided with a link to input her delivery address.
Upon clicking this link, Luo unwittingly downloaded an app named “Grab and Go” onto her smartphone.
Loses over S$37,000 to scam
The following day, Luo noticed that her phone had become unresponsive, consistently returning to the home screen no matter what she did.
At 04.00 pm, she received a call from her bank alerting her to an unauthorized outgoing transfer of S$6,000 (US$4,400).
“I told the bank to freeze my account immediately as I hadn’t authorized the transfer,” Luo explained.
However, the situation took a dire turn two hours later at around 06.00 pm when the bank contacted Luo again.
This time, they informed her that three unauthorized transfers had been made from her account, totaling a staggering S$37,466 (US$27,480).
Luo promptly contacted the police, acknowledging her own mistake in clicking the deceptive link.
Nevertheless, she also pointed out that the bank shared some responsibility, as they should have acted faster to freeze her account when the initial transfer occurred at 04.00 pm.
“If the bank had acted more swiftly, it might have mitigated the problem,” she emphasized.
Warns others against falling for same scam
Luo revealed that the lost funds represented her hard-earned savings accumulated over the years, earmarked for her retirement.
Furthermore, her son was currently pursuing his education at a private college, with school fees amounting to S$6,000 (US$4,400) due that month.
Left with a mere S$0.06 (US$0.04) in her bank account, Ms. Luo and her husband found themselves compelled to borrow money to make ends meet.
In a plea to the public, Ms. Luo shared her harrowing experience, hoping that it would serve as a cautionary tale to prevent others from falling victim to similar scams.
Other cases with the same modus operandi
This incident bears a striking resemblance to other cases with the same modus operandi.
Recently, the Singapore police issued a warning regarding a mooncake scam that ensnared 27 individuals, resulting in total losses of S$325,000 (US$238,740) reported in the month of August.
The victims encountered fraudulent advertisements on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Upon contacting the supposed “sellers” through social messaging platforms, victims were directed to WhatsApp for payment.
However, these seemingly innocuous links led victims to download an Android Package Kit (APK) file containing malicious software designed for Android’s operating system.
This access provided scammers with the means to pilfer passwords and access banking credentials, ultimately leading to unauthorized transactions from victims’ bank accounts.