SINGAPORE: Mr Loh, a 74-year-old man, suffered a significant financial setback, losing approximately S$70,000 (roughly US$51,139), after falling prey to a cunning online scam while attempting to order Peking duck.
The unfortunate incident occurred when Mr Loh was enticed by an irresistible offer from a roast duck supplier through a third-party app.
Instructed to Download an App and Deposit S$5 via PayNow
According to Mr. Loh’s account to Shin Min Daily News, he discovered a Facebook advertisement on August 26th, promoting the Chinese delicacy from a roast duck supplier named “Xiao Xiao Ya Zi (小小鸭子).”
The offer featured a 1.5kg Peking duck priced at S$23.80, with an additional S$5 for delivery.
With the intention to treat his family, particularly his grandsons, to this delicacy, he contacted the seller through WhatsApp to express his interest.
The seller guided him through voice messages to download an app called “Grab & Go” and asked for a S$5 payment as a deposit before he could place the order.
Mr Loh, a former importer, initially voiced his suspicions about the ad. However, the scammer managed to reassure him that the offer was legitimate, ultimately convincing Mr Loh to proceed with the small deposit.
“He said that no one would be cheated of S$5 and that this was a small thing. He told me that I had a lot of wisdom and experience,” Mr Loh said.
As such, Mr Loh decided to go ahead and make the deposit, thinking “This was a matter of only S$5.”
Similarly, this strategy had previously surfaced as an emerging form of Android malware scam employed by scammers.
Victims will be instructed to install a third-party application and submit a $5 deposit via PayNow for their requested order or services.
Once the app is installed, it can capture the victim’s internet banking credentials using its key-logging functionality.
At that point, the scammers will then gain unauthorized access to the victims’ mobile banking apps, enabling them to carry out unauthorized transactions.
To cover their tracks, they will perform factory resets on the devices, effectively erasing all data.
This not only depletes the victims’ bank accounts but also wipes their phones clean.
Phone malfunction after deposit leads to scam, draining victim’s savings
Within minutes of depositing the money, Mr Loh’s phone began malfunctioning and restarting multiple times over the next half an hour.
Furthermore, when he tried to shut down the app and power off the phone, he discovered that these actions were not accessible.
Concerned, he reached out to the scammer, who falsely claimed that this behavior was “normal.”
At this point, Mr. Loh’s wife overheard their discussion, sensing that something was amiss.
She promptly contacted their daughter and enlisted her brother’s help to urgently reach out to DBS Bank.
Regrettably, it was too late.
The bank told the family that scammers had raised Mr. Loh’s transaction limit, from its original limit of S$3,000.
The scammers had managed to transfer around S$59,000 from Mr. Loh’s DBS current account and POSB savings account, in addition to making a credit advance of S$11,000 on his DBS credit card.
The money taken by the scammers represented Mr. Loh’s hard-earned savings, accumulated over more than a decade for retirement and medical expenses.
He lodges a police report on Aug 27, and reached out to DBS for assistance, the investigation is ongoing.
Anger over loss of life savings
Expressing remorse for falling victim to the scam, Mr Loh voiced his anger at himself, given his background as a businessman who had traveled the world.
“These were my hard-earned savings I accumulated over more than 10 years. At that point [when I knew I had been scammed], I was so angry at myself.” Loh told Shin Min.
“I used to be a businessman and got to see the world, so I never thought I would get tricked like this,” he added.
He also highlighted concerns about the immediate change in his funds transfer limits without his knowledge, claiming that he did not receive any notifications when it happened.
“I know that some banks require a 12-hour cooling-off period when there is an increase in funds transfer limits. But for my case, they were changed immediately without my knowledge,” he said.
When scammers take control of a person’s phone, they may have the capability to erase these notifications or block them from displaying on the screen.
DBS implements new security tool to safeguard customer accounts
As a response to the incident, a spokesperson from DBS stated that the bank has introduced a new anti-malware tool to enhance customer security and prevent unauthorized access to digibank accounts.
The tool limits entry to the banking application as soon as it identifies potential security threats, including unverified or harmful applications, or when screen-sharing is in progress on the customer’s device.
The spokesperson further noted that customers will be unable to use DBS and POSB digibank until they have completed the essential actions to safeguard their phones.
DBS advised customers to contact their dedicated fraud hotline at 1800-339-6963 to report suspected scams and to utilize the safety switch function via digibank to temporarily block access to their funds when necessary.
“When a customer falls prey to a scam, we have dedicated resources in place to act swiftly and assist.
“We will assist these customers with necessary follow-up actions, which include making a police report, or replacing their cards and resecuring their accounts,” the spokesperson said.
Rise in malware scam cases
In 2023, there is a growing trend of scams involving malicious software, leading to individuals being tricked after installing harmful applications on their mobile devices.
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